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Monday 31 January 2022

The Prisoner - A New Arrival Chapter 18


A Man of Steel!

    The ambulance arrived at the hospital, two orderlies rushed out pushing a trolley. They eased the patient out of the Red Cross trailer and onto the trolley then pushed it and the patient into the hospital, along the corridor to the laboratory. No.2 arrived a few moments later in a taxi and went into the hospital. The professor was preparing for the operation, and awaiting the arrival of his patient.
    The two orderlies pushed the trolley through the open steel doors into the white walled laboratory. The Professor began his examination of the unconscious patient. No.2 stood at the pair of steel doors they didn’t open. He banged on the doors with his fists, in his frustration he was forced to pace the floor outside. While inside the laboratory the Professor had removed the face of No.13 as well as the synthetic skin, covering the steel frame of the automaton. The machine had been wired up to the computer in order to carry out a diagnostic of the mechanical brain.
   Suddenly the pair of steel doors opened and No.2 stepped into the laboratory.
    “Why have you kept me waiting?”
    “Why in order to allow me to get on with my work in peace and quiet!” said the Professor.
    “How is Number 4?”
    “As you see, he’s the best so far. Number 1 was alright as far as it went, but it was too clunky, and clumsy. Number 2 was a huge step forward. You will recall how we gave it your face, and how it managed to fool your assistant.”
    “I found that somewhat unnerving, it seemed to like its elevated position rather too much” No.2 said recalling the episode only too vividly “I recall it had to be deactivated in the end. Then there was the unfortunate incident with Number 3!”
    “All safety precautions had been observed, Number 3 had been functioning normally then suddenly it…..”
    “Killed three guardians, snapping the necks of two, and beating the third to a pulp!”
    “Regrettable” said the Professor “But in experimentation one must expect losses.”
    “Then Number 3 went on to attempt an escape. It would have torn a Guardian to shreds had it offered resistance, and where is it now?”
    “At the bottom of the quicksand.”
    “At the bottom of the quicksand, that saved your bacon Professor.”
    “But it helped in the progression in the experiment which resulted in Number 4. He’s the best so far. Number 4 has become fully integrated in the system, the village and its community. He has


undergone a number of experiences during his time here what’s more he has learned from those experiences. I would give him a normal classification; on his arrival he showed shock symptoms, disorientation, confusion and an accepted behaviour pattern. He became uncooperative, under went interrogation, refused to talk. He even came up with an escape plan and executed that plan, that was interesting.”
   “Interesting how so?”
   “On the grounds that it was the best demonstration of an independent free thinking, and calculating mind. He showed daring, the eventual desire for freedom quite normal behaviour for a man who has been in captivation for so long. This was instinctive, not pre-programmed.”

    “So what went wrong?”
    “We are running a diagnostic at the moment. Nothing abnormal is showing up so far. It’s the fact he remembered when all memory of his former life had been erased from the mechanical brain.”
   “Then it doesn’t work?”
   “I hate to remind you Number 2, but Number 4 was a perfectly functioning automaton up until we re-programmed it. And during that reprogramming something was left behind from his former life.”
    “The ghost in the machine.”
    “The ghost of something, memory, but it should not have been able to remember because there was nothing to remember!”
    “So we have failed. No.4 is no use to us as an infiltration unit.”
    “I am afraid so Number 2, and he was the last of his kind.”

    “Then there must be another, what about Number 5!”
    “There is no Number 5. The idea was to use an automaton as an infiltration unit. To be programmed with the mind of a subject of our choosing, then to be released into the outside word in order to gather information. This process would have been carried out many times. As it is what happens if each time during those processes a little of each subject remains after the re-programming? We would create a monster!”
    “Haven’t you done that already professor?”
    “Like Frankenstein? No not like Frankenstein, he wanted to create a man in his own likeness, and in the end he wanted to destroy the creature he created because it became a monster! Number 4 was perfect, we meddled with it and it became imperfect.”
    “So, where does this leave the experiment?”
    The Professor gathered up the papers on a table, stuffed them back into a folder, and dropped the folder into a wire wastepaper basket!
    “Any more questions?” asked the Professor “Number 4 will have to be decommissioned and dismantled, the last of its kind, what a pity.”
    No.2 carried a document case; unzipping it he removed a grey cardboard folder and dropped it onto the table.
    “What’s that?” the Professor asked.


   “That was sent down in part-2 orders earlier today. Apparently our masters want the experiment to continue, but taking a different direction.”
    “Saltzman” was the name the Professor read on the cover of the folder.
    “Professor Jacob Saltzman” No.2 said “A Saltzman machine has been acquired and is on its way to the village as we speak.”

    “A Saltzman machine, what does it do?”
    “Well it doesn’t move about creating havoc which is a bonus. But it does change the minds of men and women. What I mean is, the Saltzman machine makes it possible for us to take a subject and bring him or her to the village, wipe all unpleasant memories of their stay here, give him or her a mind of our choosing and put the subject back into circulation in order to gather information. Later to be brought back to the village and have that information extracted.”

    The Professor opened the file, he couldn’t help but think there is a flaw in that plan somewhere, but soon realized that basically this is the same as his own plan, but using people rather than his automatons.
    “And you want me to construct this Salzman machine and presumably make it operational.”
    “You are as astute as ever Professor.”

    “How was this Saltzman machine acquired?” the Professor asked flicking through the papers in the file.

    “Ours is not to reason why” No.2 told him.
    “And this Professor Saltzman?”
    No.2 shrugged his shoulders “We have you, the machine, and the plans to make it work which is all that is required.”
    There came a noise behind them, a whirring, clanking sound which made the Professor and No.2 stop, they paused before turning round to see No.4 sitting on the edge of the operating table and taking notice.

     “You are to be congratulated” Number 2 told No.4.
     “You are the best of your kind, the most sophisticated.”
     “Thank you very much!”
     “We had to put you to the test you understand.”
     “You mean I have been put through this ordeal, being tested, since the very day I arrived here in this place?”
     “Well you didn’t actually arrive in the village………….”
    No.4 looked down at himself, his steel frame and the cogs, springs, rods, wires. He raised an arm, he looked at his hand with curiosity to see how it worked when he moved a finger, clenched his fist.

    “You mean I was constructed here. Then tell me, since I have survived what then is to be my reward?”
    “Reward!” the Professor shouted “you are a machine. I built you with my own hands. I know every nut, bolt, and cog.”


    “Perhaps you think my existence is reward enough.”
    “You are the last of your kind.”
    “I am Number 4.”
    “The best of my kind.”
    “Yes I was listening Number 2, I heard very word uttered. And you two have made my life here, my existence a lie.”

    “Not a lie, you can be anything, anyone you like” said the Professor “I can make it possible.”
    “Just as long as I remain here.”
    “You cannot be free to go” No.2 said “besides where would you go?”
    The automaton climbed off the operating table and took a step or two towards the Professor. No.2 stretched out a hand towards the telephone on the table.

    “Is that an order Number 4?” No.2 asked drawing back his hand.

    In the Control Room the Supervisor stood watching the scene in the laboratory play out on the wall screen. He picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone and called security. A few moments’ later four security guards in grey overalls and white helmets were speeding through the village in a Mini-moke. Arriving at the hospital they marched in as a body through the doors and along the corridor pausing outside the laboratory No.167 put an ear to the doors. He could hear voices within, he listened, he waited, then he nodded to his three confederates with truncheons at the ready, then as one they burst into the laboratory.
    “Stop!” No.2 ordered “what is it you want?”
    The automaton stood there, its brain whirring and clicking as it calculated what its response might be.
    “Number 1!”
    “We’ll take you, but first…”

    Leaving the laboratory, No.2 and two security guards escorted a monk-like figure, wearing a white robe and cowl, along the corridor and out of the hospital. His face obscured, and the monk wore white gloves on his hands. They bundled the figure into the waiting Mini-Moke, and No.2 got in behind the wheel and started the engine.
    Leaving the gravelled forecourt the taxi turned right following the hedge lined road, winding through woods, over a stone bridge turning left and along the road emerging into the village through the white and yellow triumphal arch. No.2 sounded the two tone horn warning pedestrians and cyclists alike to make way. The taxi continued on its journey until it came to a stop outside the large imposing building of the Town Hall. No.2 and the two security guards rushed the robed figure out of the taxi and up the steps into the imposing building.
    The foyer was deserted, ahead a pair of wooden doors. One of the security guards produced a security pass disc from a pocket and 
inserted the disc into a slot of a 


 a small black box. There came a whirring sound as the lid of the box began to rise a small pink hand emerged and snatched the security pass disc, the lid closed and the pair of wooden doors opened. They passed through and along the corridor and through a pair of glass panelled doors, at the far end of a second corridor was a pair of glass panelled French doors which opened automatically at their approach. Beyond was a small anti-room, there was a second pair of identical glass panelled French doors also with green blinds, they opened automatically and they passed through the open doorway and stood in a dimly lit room. There was a whirring sound but the source was unclear in the dimness. Then the French doors closed, and the lights came on automatically. The source of the whirring was a tele-printer set up in a corner of the room and a message or instruction was being typed out by the machine. The room also contained three grey filing cabinets, a large oak desk and a chair.

    “I have been here before” No.4 remarked.
    “Welcome to your inner sanctum” No.2 announced.
    The cowled figure stood there, eyes peered at the room through holes in a black and white theatrical mask.
    “Here, what is here?” No.4 asked.
    “This is your assignment, a very important one if you were to ask me.”
    “What am I to do here?” he asked looking about him.
    The two security guards stood blocking the doorway, truncheons at the ready.
    “You are to type up copies of part-2 orders which are received via the tele-printer in the corner. And then send them on.”
    No.4 looked at the tele-printer busy typing a set of instructions, he walked over to it, a white gloved hand opened the inspection door and ripped out wiring and paper from the roll. Instantly the tele-printer stopped working, and No.4 and No.2 stood looking at each other.
    “I expect you think that’s a whole lot better” No.2 said as the tele-printer whirred back into life and resumed typing.
    “This is your desk, chair, typewriter, typing paper, carbon paper, in and out trays, I suggest you get to work straight away” No.2 suggested.
    “And if I refuse?” No.4 asked.
    “Failure to comply will mean your being disassembled, your choice” No.2 told him.
    The automaton stood calculating its options “Where is the automaton which sat behind that desk?”
    You have taken its place, you are Number 1 now” pronounced No.2.
    The white robed figure stared at No.2, turned and faced the two security guards framed in the doorway. Then turning towards the desk, No.1 sat in the chair, and white gloved hands began typing.



Monday 24 January 2022

Chapter 17


The Ghost In The Machine

    The steel doors opened and No.2 walked through into the Control Room, and stood looking down from the mezzanine level.
    “How’s Number 4?”
    The Supervisor-No.22 looked up at No.2 “He’s asleep” she said.
    “Really!” No.2 said descending the steel staircase.
    “Although his sleep is light.”
    “Well we’ll have to deepen it for him that’s all, pulastor.”
    In 4 Private the ceiling light above the bed began to pulsate as it descended in order to cover the face of the slumbering No.4.
    “Now, send a medic and two orderlies and have Number 4 taken to the hospital.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    A Mini-Moke towing a Red Cross trailer pulled up at the back of 4 Private. The lock was released and the door opened. The medic went in first, followed by orderlies, one carrying a stretcher, the other a blanket. The medic checked the cup on the bedside table, then the man slumbering in the bed. When all was to his satisfaction he indicated to the two orderlies to put the patient on the stretcher and carry him out to the ambulance.

   In the laboratory No.2 and a doctor, No.23, a woman in her late fifties, along with her medical team were waiting an arrival.
   “How long professor?”
   The professor checked the clock on the wall “Not much longer, they’ll be here in a few minutes.”
    “No, I meant how long will the operation take?”
    “Oh I see what you mean. Oh I should think one, perhaps two hours; it’s a complicated operation as you know.”
    No.2 looked at his wrist watch “It’s a little after midnight; you have precisely twenty-four hours in order to complete this experiment.”
    The Professor protested “That’s not long enough!”
    “Protest as much as you wish, it’s all the time afforded to me. Just get this right Professor.”
    The pair of white doors opened and No.4 was wheeled into the theatre on an operating table, and the doctor and his surgical team began to get to work on the subject.

    No.13 was in the bathroom shaving when a voice from the kitchen asked “What do you want for breakfast darling?”
    He held the razor from his face for a moment “Two poached eggs on toast” and carried on with his shave.


   No.13 a tall man in his early forties, blond with blue eyes looked at himself in the mirror his hands poised as the moment had come, the moment of applying aftershave and for that stinging sensation. He replaced the top on the bottle of aftershave and looked at himself in the mirror. Not bad he thought for a man of forty-three, and yet there was something….something at the back of his mind that puzzled him. Shrugging his shoulders he picked up his dressing gown and put it on.
   In the kitchen his wife No.13b, Vanessa, had put out the breakfast things, two slices of toast in the toaster, water in a pan was simmering, cracking two eggs into a saucer she tipped each one in turn into the pan they were allowed to cook for a couple of minutes then left the eggs in the pan, finally left to drain on a piece of kitchen towel. And for herself a bowl of cornflakes and orange juice.

    “Good morning darling” he said planting a kiss on her cheek.
    “Good morning darling” she said returning his kiss “how did you sleep, eggs won’t be a moment.”
    “I closed my eyes and simply dropped off, but that’s as good as it got. I dreamed someone had got under my skin, that when I peeled off

my face I was someone else.”
    A look of worry crossed Vanessa’s face, but just for a moment as she poured out two cups of tea “It’s their fault; its horrid we should never have been brought to this place!”
    He added milk and sugar and sat stirring his tea allowing his mind to drift “If it had been any other day I might have been away from my desk.”
    Vanessa served up the poached eggs on toast “It wasn’t your fault, the file landed on your desk by mistake that’s all.”

    “A file on the village, and I only glanced at it.”
    “But it was enough” she said.
    “Yes. But that’s no reason to have dragged you along as well.”
    “I’m pleased they did. It would be worse to be back there without you, than here with you. Do you think they will leave us alone now?”
    “They have tried most things, even to the point of using you against

me. That doctor is a complete………”
    There was a sudden pain in his head, he saw himself lying on an operating table, a woman in a surgical robe wearing a mask stood over him, there was a scalpel in her hand……. That was when he attacked his wife who had stood over him with a butter knife in her hand.

    “What caused that do you think?” asked the Supervisor.
    No.2 stood looking up at the screen and shook his head as No.13 took his hands from around his wife’s throat, the butter knife having slipped from her hand. Vanessa staggered back rubbing her throat and glaring at her husband as he dropped back in the chair.
    “I’m sorry, I don’t know…….” Claude pulled himself together.     
    “You’ve never hurt me before.”


    “No, I haven’t, I was in an operating theatre, there was a doctor or someone standing over me, it was you!”

    “Me! I can assure you I’ve never been………it must have been that doctor Number 23. Some doctor she’d drive anyone to the grave. It’s this place, can’t we get away?”
    “Some chance, we’ve told them everything we know.”
    “So what now?”
    “I suppose we live out the rest of our lives in the peaceful atmosphere of… of the village!”
    No.2 crossed the floor to the steel staircase “Keep a close watch on our friend, and let me know if there is another sudden attack as that.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    Standing on the mezzanine level, the pair of steel doors slid open, No.2 took one final look at the wall screen to see domestic bliss had apparently returned to ‘13 Private.’

    Later that day with the sun shining and the cottage becoming somewhat claustrophobic, Claude and Vanessa decided to get out for a stroll and some fresh air. She had decided to wear a scarf about her neck so as to obscure the bruising, and so doing avoided any embarrassing questions, although she was aware that the little scene in the kitchen that morning would have been witnessed, by the Observers, they do see and hear everything apparently.

   The walk had taken them through the village, along the quayside and out along the cliffs. It was really the most perfect day, people enjoying themselves on the beach, the dark terrors of the village like spilled ice cream melting away in the sunshine. Further on, a couple of people were messing about in the rock pools as a section of cliff descended to the beach. Beyond the lighthouse was the cove, a few people were enjoying what little privacy the cove afforded them, as they relaxed sunbathing. Then No.13 looked a little further out and saw the water. He didn’t know what it was, but suddenly he staggered back from the edge of the cliff holding his head.

    “What is it darling?” his wife said going to his aid.
    “I….I don’t know. I was looking at the water and there was a man a man dragging a hollowed out tree trunk across the beach. He paddled out to sea, then the Guardian came and………”
    “I didn’t see such a man!”
    “You must have done.”
    “No darling there was no-one. Look there’s no sign of anyone in the water let alone the Guardian.”
    “He stepped towards the edge of the cliff. There was no-one in the water, and no tell-tale tracks in the sand other than those of the few people sunbathing” he didn’t understand. Was he starting to see things, or were they some kind of flashback.
    “I think we had better go back now, this place is having a bad effect on you, perhaps you should see a doctor” his wife told him.


    He glared at the woman on his arm “No” he said sternly “no more doctors.”
    “Very well darling, as you wish.”

    In his office No.2 sat in his chair reading No.13b’s report, lifting his eyes from the single page he looked at the woman sat on the other side of the desk.
    “Where does he think you are now?”
    “I said I had to go to the General Store for a loaf of bread.”

    “He attacked you.”
    “Yes sir, but I’m sure it was brought on by some memory recall. One moment he was fine, the next he was at my throat.”
    “I see. And then there was the incident on the cliffs.”
    “I cannot explain that. He seemed to be seeing something I could not.”
    “That was Number 62 who hollowed out a tree trunk and used it in an escape attempt a month or so back.”

    “So what he saw was a memory.”
    “Yes” No.2 said picking up the receiver of the grey telephone “hospital, Professor how sure are you of the conditioning of our friend?”
    “Why do you ask?”
    “Because he has been experiencing memories!”
    “That’s impossible!”
    “Clearly not Professor.”
    “Well the adjustment went according to plan; we wiped his memory, and gave him a new one according to his new situation. Of course there is no accounting for the ghost in the machine syndrome.”

    “Ghost in the machine, please explain.”
    “Even though we wiped his memory of all previous experiences here in the village, there was bound to be something that remained, a memory hidden away in the dark recesses of the mind.”
    “You knew this could be the case when we started?”
    “I thought it possible, but unlikely. Do you want No.13 brought back in?” the Professor asked.
    No.2 thought for a moment “No, I have someone close to 13, should any further anomalies occur she will report directly to me. We’ll reappraise the situation should it be necessary.”
    No.2 replaced the receiver on the phone “You can go, don’t forget your loaf of bread.”

    “Haven’t you changed those spark plugs yet?” asked the foreman.
    No.13, who had his head under the bonnet of a Mini-Moke, was replacing the carburettor.
    “I said haven’t you…….”
    “Of course I have” 13 said emerging from beneath the bonnet and wiping his hands on an oily rag “now I’ve just replaced the 
carburettor, and checked the oil as


well as the brake fluid.”
    “All right clever dick, now you can change the off-side rear tyre of that one” said the foreman “when you’ve done that get yourself off to the slipway, one of the Jet boats has developed engine problems.”
    13 dropped the oil rag and closed the bonnet of the Mini-Moke “I always think it’s good to be kept busy, it helps pass the time!”
   He changed the tyre on the other Mini-Moke and both vehicles were soon back in service. Then it was the long slow drive to the slipway on a John Deer garden tractor, not only that but someone had had a sudden brainstorm and added a candy striped canopy to the tractor, which was set up on a tall framework which made the canopy effectively useless as a device to protect against the elements! The tractor towed a small trailer a sign displayed the word ‘MECHANICS.’ As for the ride, it would have been quicker had he walked!
    By the time he arrived at the slipway another mechanic was already there. Climbing off the tractor he opened up the trailer and taking out his tool box walked along the slipway to where the mechanic was already working on the engine.
    “You took your time!” No.245 said wiping his hands on an oil rag.
    “I didn’t think it was an emergency, so I took the scenic route” No.13 told him.
    “Yes very funny! I don’t know why you bothered driving that thing here.”
    “It’s better than walking!”

    “Only just!”
    “What’s wrong with this thing then?” 13 asked climbing into the boat.
    “It just won’t start for some reason.”

    “Plenty of fuel in the tank I suppose.”
    “You know, I would never have thought of that!”

    In the Control Room the Supervisor and No.2 stood watching the wall screen as the two mechanics worked on the jet boat’s engine.
    “Well that all looks to be going pretty well” No.2 said with confidence.
    “So far so good” said the Supervisor “We’ll see how he gets on once the engine is repaired.”
   “You mean when he puts out into the estuary in the boat.”
   “Yes, if No.13 is playing a game with us because of a piece of the ghost is still in the machine, he might not come back!”
   They continued to watch the screen as the two mechanics stood looking at the engine.
   “Right, better fire her up” said 245.
   No.13 leaned over and turned the ignition, the engine coughed, spluttered and died. He tried again with the same result, but a third time after a cough and two splutters the engine fired into life. With a thumbs up from 245 they replaced and bolted the engine cowling back into position.


    “Right, you had better take her out.”

    “Me?” said 13.
    “Yes you, I’m on my way back to the workshop. Enjoy yourself” 245 said stepping onto the slipway and casting the boat off.
    No.13 got into the seat and took the wheel in his hands, he throttled the engine and the jet boat moved away from the slipway and out into the estuary.
    “Now we shall see” said No.2 watching the action on the wall screen.
    The jet boat was skimming across the waves in mid estuary, 10, 12, 14 knots. No.13 could see the mouth of the estuary in the distance, he was about to slow the boat and turn back when something came at him. It took only a couple of minutes for the Guardian to draw alongside the speedboat. No.13 pulled hard to port on the wheel crashing the boat onto the white fibreglass dome of the Guardian.

    “What’s he doing?” No.2 asked looking at the wall screen “why is the boat veering away like that?”
    “He appears to be taking evasive action if you ask me!” said the Supervisor.
    “Why, there’s nothing there!”

     This sent the droid off course momentarily, but regained its position alongside, its blue light flashing more intently and brighter. No.13 turned the wheel hard to starboard leaving the Guardian in its wake.
    “Now what’s he doing?” said a puzzled No.2.
    “I really couldn’t say sir.”

   13 turned the boat again to meet the thing head on……crash! The bow of the speedboat had punctured a hole in the fibreglass dome, rupturing one of the floatation tanks in the process, both of which were taking on water fast. No.13 leapt overboard and began to swim away; foundering in the water he turned to see boat and Guardian sink below the waves.
   “He’s stopped the boat, and now he’s jumped into the water. What did he do that for?”

    “Get the helicopter pilot to retrieve No.13 from the water!”
    “Yes Number 2.”

    The helicopter landed on the water, and two guardians helped the floundering No.13 out of the water and into the helicopter. Taking off the pilot flew the helicopter over the village and landed in a pasture next to the hospital. Two male orderlies were waiting to help No.13 to the hospital, and was put into an interrogation room which was void of table or chair forcing the subject to remain standing. 13 sat on the floor.
    “Now 13, what the devil do you think you were playing at?” asked a disembodied voice.
    No.13 looked about the room for a black speaker, there wasn’t one.


    “You saw what happened, or at least your Observers would have seen.”
    “We saw you driving the jet boat erratically, had you simply lost control?”
    “What were you doing then?”
    “It was the droid’s fault!”
    “Droid?” the voice asked “what droid?”
    “That mechanical Rover thing, I was trying to escape and you sent it after me. I rammed it and the thing sank. Ask your Observers they will have seen, I saw it coming at me, I rammed it and the thing sank. They must have seen it, they must have.”
    “Is he having a nervous breakdown? No.14 asked.

    No.2 and 14 looked at each other, then at the Professor who was making notes.
    “Well Professor, is he?”
    “Is he what?”
    “Having a nervous breakdown?” 2 asked.
    “That is impossible.”
    “Then how do you explain it?”
    The Professor put his pencil in the breast pocket of his white coat “I shall have to conduct a series of tests.”
    “Tests!” barked No.2 “tests, any layman can tell what’s gone wrong it’s the re-programming its left memories.”
    “That’s not possible” said the Professor defiantly.
    “He remembers, he’s just been living a memory of his former life that happened months ago!”
    “I shall have to conduct a series of tests” the Professor repeated.
    “Then do so, but find a way to retrieve the situation, otherwise you will have failed this project!”
   “I could reverse the process!”
   “What and have Number 13 suddenly strip the engine down of one of the taxi’s when it’s standing on the rank when he suddenly gets the urge, Number 14.”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Give Number 13 a free ride home.”
    “You are sending him home?”
    “Yes, my decision, it’s not his fault” No.2 said.
    “But he needs to be here, he needs to be under my supervision” argued the Professor.
    “Perhaps he just needs to go home and be with his wife.”
    “A wife he attacked!”
    “Yes, because he is remembering!”
    “Yes you in a white coat, the operation, the conditioning, it’s all coming back to him!”
    “Impossible, we wiped his memory and gave him a new life.”


    “Go back to your notes professor, go over the process again, and find a way to eradicate that ghost in the machine!”  

    Outside the hospital No.14 put No.13 in a taxi and he was driven home. His wife was in the kitchen preparing his favourite dish when she heard the door to the cottage open. 13 went through into the lounge and sat down, his wife 13b, joined him and sat next to him on the sofa.
    “Where have you been darling?”
    “You weren’t at the hospital!”
    “Hospital, what were you doing at the hospital?”
    “They didn’t tell you?”
    “Have you had an accident, are you hurt?”
    “Accident yes, hurt no” he said, but he was confused.
    “Tell me darling.”
    “I was testing one of the jet boats, 245 and I had been working on its engine. I took the boat out into the estuary; there was this thing, Rover, a droid. It must have thought I was trying to escape. I took evasive action, but it kept coming at me, eventually I steered the boat straight for it, and sank it.
    His wife sat there looking at him, the realization washing over her that something was seriously wrong with him. A nervous breakdown it seemed caused by some stress or strain. Perhaps the hospital was the best place for him, if he was to go berserk again she might not survive it. She decided to call No.2, but from a telephone kiosk! 

    “Yes my dear, I understand your natural anxiety, but he needs to remain calm, at a time like this he needs to be reminded of ordinary everyday things. He needs those who love him to be close” No.2 said trying his best to sound reassuring.
    “But I don’t love him!”
    “You have been assigned to him because you are one of our best agents. Surely you can feign your love, at least show some affection towards him.”
    “It’s not you who’s cooped up in a cottage with it!”
    “It will not be for much longer my dear. I fear this experiment was doomed from the start.”

    No.2 had put the phone down, leaving No.13b left out in the cold. It was a slow walk back from the kiosk to ‘13 Private,’ and when she did finally returned home.

    No.13 was in the bedroom, he had been lying down, thinking, trying to give reason for the things he was remembering. He got up and caught sight of himself in the dressing table mirror, he sat down on the stool and gazed deeply into the mirror. He saw the day of his arrival in the village the taxi ride, and meeting Number 2 for the first time;

    “I can see you are about to ask me a question” the man behind the desk said.


   “I have several questions, beginning with why am I here?”
    “I would have thought introductions should come first. I am Number 2” he tapped the badge on the lapel of his jacket with a finger.
    “Well that doesn’t tell me much!”
    “And you are our new Number 4.”
    “Number what?”
    “I’m no number, my name is…….”

    Then his first escape attempt. No.4 was way ahead, and close to taking the speedboat out into the open sea, it has been all too easy. And yet when he glanced over his shoulder, much to his surprise he saw he was now being pursued. Not by another speedboat, but something round something which appeared to skim over the water. He kept the speedboat on a true course straight for the open sea, casting another glance over his shoulder he saw a flashing blue light, and that it was gaining on him. Then came the interrogation.   

    The doctor turned to the trolley and selected another syringe filled with a dark red liquid “Now….what were you doing in East Germany?”
    “I was never in East Germany” he said using the pain from his wrists to block out the memory.
    “That is a lie, but I won’t hold it against you because I like a challenge, there’s no fun in it if my subjects talk too soon. But you will tell me laddie, in the end you’ll want to tell me”

    A third injection as the needle entered the Prisoner’s upper arm, the plunger depressed.
    “It doesn’t hurt any more the Prisoner said.”
    “Doesn’t it laddie?”
    “No” he said and his lips formed a smile, and a happy look came over his face “I’m high.”
    “Are you laddie?”
    “I’m higher than you.”
    “You don’t say.”
    “I do say.”
    “Then tell me about Klaussmann?”
    “You heard the question. Did Klaussman give you anything?”
    “I don’t know any Klaussman.”
    East Germany, you were on assignment there.”
    “I’ve never been there.”
    “Where, where haven’t you been?”
    “You’re a funny man, I like you.”
    “Did Klaussmann give you the formula?”
    “Funfair, you went to the funfair, Spreepark is that where you went?”
    “Ferris wheels, roundabouts… you like candy floss, I like candy floss.”


    “You went the Spreepark funfair, Klaussmann passed something to you.”
    The Prisoner struggled to suppress old memories; he worked his wrists against the blood soaked leather restraints.
    “Did Klaussmann give you a book?”
    “Why are you doing this?”
    “I’m not, you are. Do yourself a favour, tell me what I want to know and this will stop.”
    “You’re funny, I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about” the Prisoner laughed.
    “Then I’m sorry for you laddie” the doctor said the pain of a small scratch as the needle of the syringe was pushed into his arm and the plunger pushed.
    “About three minutes is usual” the doctor said.
    “Three minutes?” the Prisoner asked.
    “Until the drug takes effect, what shall we do in that time?”
    “We could have a cup of tea.” The Prisoner said sarcastically.

“Good people of our community.”
    “Hoorah” the people shouted.
    “It has to be said that there has been a lack of opposition in the matter of free elections. This is not good for you the people, and our community as a whole. It suggests a lack of will in the people, an acceptance of things as they are, and a reluctance to progress.”
    “We have here a candidate whose outlook on this community is one of militancy, and individualism.”
    “Hoorah, hoorah.”
    “Let us hope he will realize his duty to this community, by taking up the challenge. It is my pleasure to present to you a recent recruit, Number 4.”
    No.2 handed No.4 the megaphone, and he stood there looking down on the gathered crowd, who looked up to him expectantly.
    “What do I say?”
    “Say what you like” No.2 told him pinning a black rosette to the lapel of his blazer, on the white centre disc the black number 4.
    No.4 raised the megaphone to his mouth and the people stood waiting with baited breath to hear the candidate’s opening speech.
    “I don’t know what you and Number 2 and his administration expect of me, but I’m not being railroaded into standing against him in this local election” he announced lowering the megaphone.
    The crowd stood silent, and accusing.
    No.2 leaned over towards his opponent “That’s not the sort of thing these good people want to hear. Give then something they can cheer, tell them what you stand for.”

    It was a square room, carpet on the floor, a grey filing cabinet in a corner, a couple of paintings decorated the walls. On the far wall were


two word maps, the one to the right had small illuminating parts of the world. And there was a desk, a large oak desk, with a bad-headed man sat in a chair behind it. The man had failed to notice No.4 enter the room, or if he had he made no reaction. He simply sat there filling in The Daily Telegraph crossword. It must have been just after 3 in the afternoon, because there was no tea plate accompanying the cup and saucer. No.4 slowly approached the desk.
    “Anyone at home?” he asked.
    The bald-headed man looked up through his spectacles but said nothing.
    “Who are you then?”
    The man behind the desk remained silent.
    “Are you the chief inquisitor?”
    The man simply sat there toying with his ballpoint pen.
    “I expect you want me to talk, what do you want me to say?”
    The man remained silent.
    No.4 leaned over the desk “What…do…you…want…me…to…say?”
    The man said nothing, showed no reaction, wouldn’t be drawn into speaking.
    “What’s this, the silent treatment” No.4 looked about the room “don’t I even get a chair to sit on? You know I’m not at all sure what you are, perhaps you’re no more than a pen pushing bureaucrat.”
   “He is” said a woman’s voice “but I’m not.”
   A tall woman wearing a white coat had entered the room, in her right hand a syringe.
   “Now just relax, this won’t hurt, well not immediately anyway” the doctor said slowly approaching his patient.
    “What have you there?”
    “The first dose of Scopolamine” the doctor said.

    About a mile and a half back along the track there appeared a small gap in the hedgerow. Stopping the Jeep 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 No.4 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. No.4 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 jeep 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.

    “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 remembered everything……

    The cottage door opened and No.13b returned home.
    “Where have you been?” he asked
    “I……I went for a walk, I needed some air” she told him.
    “Really, aren’t you supposed to be here looking after me?”
    “Why are you looking so afraid?”
    “I’m not afraid, shall I make some coffee?”

    “No. My memory has returned, I remember everything….I was never married so who the hell are you!”
    No.58 made for the door, at first he made a move to stop her, but instead he let her go.

    In the Control Room the Supervisor picked up the receiver of the yellow telephone and called No.2.

    “It’s reported that Number 13b has run out of the cottage.”
    “Number 4 has also just left the cottage, he’s crossing the square, an ambulance has just pulled up in the road” reported the Supervisor still watching the wall screen.

    “Ah Number 4, just in time for your check up” said the medical orderly.
    “A check up, I’ve never had a check up before.”
    “Well it’s high time you did” said the orderly.
    “Another time perhaps” said No.4 about to go on his way.
    Then three security guards in grey overall, dark glasses, white helmets stepped out of the white Mini-Moke, each had a white truncheon. They attacked No.4 who fought the three men off until one clubbed him over the head, there was a sudden clanking sound, and he fell to the ground. No.4’s unconscious body was placed in the Red Cross trailer and driven off to the hospital.


Monday 17 January 2022

Chapter 16

 A Wet Wednesday!

    “Rain, rain go away come again another day.”
    “What’s that you say Number 14?” No.2 asked.
    No.14 had been staring at the wall screen, the month’s spell of fine weather had finally broken and it was raining, it had been raining all night and now it was pouring down. Outside in the village the streets and paths had been turned into rivers as rainwater poured down them.
    “I was reciting the words of a poem, rain, rain go away come again another day. It’s said to date back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I at the time of the Spanish Armada. The invasion failed not only because of the swift nature of the smaller English ships, but also there was a storm which scattered the remains of the Spanish fleet, hence the origin of the rain, rain go away" Nursery rhyme!”

    “You never fail to astound me Number 14.”
    “Thank you sir.”
    No.2 looked at the man watching the wall screen “Haven’t you got anything better to be doing?”
    “No sir, its all very quiet, there’s no-one out and about, except for the milkman, and an elderly couple numbers 60 and 61, they are a hardy pair of senior citizens who are not prepared to let a drop of water stop them taking their daily constitutional.”
   “Well don’t let it stop you from catching up on any paperwork you’ve allowed to build up in administration” was No.2’s suggestion.
    “Paperwork sir, oh yes, I take your point. I’ll be seeing you.”
    At that point the pair of steel doors opened and the butler entered pushing a breakfast trolley containing tea and biscuits for No.2’s elevenses.
    “Ah tea” said No.14 smiling.
    “Paperwork!” said No.2 in return.
    No.14 took his leave as the butler set out the teapot, milk, sugar bowl, cup and saucer, with two digestive biscuits on a tea plate on the grey curved desk.
    No.2 looked leaned forward in his chair looking at the two digestive biscuits “Are there still no proper biscuits, you know the ones with the cream inside?”
    The diminutive butler simply shook his head before pushing the trolley across the floor, up the ramp and out through the opening steel doors.

    In the Control Room the bald-headed Supervisor-No.46, a tall man with a thin moustache dressed in a dark green polo necked jersey, double-breasted plain black 


 blazer and grey slacks, stood watching the wall screen. It was pouring down with rain, so much so that it obscured the view via the surveillance cameras.
    “What the cameras need are windscreen wipers” remarked one Observer.

    “What was that, what did you say?” asked the Supervisor.
    The Observer looked away from his monitor and looked at the Supervisor “I merely suggested that the surveillance cameras need windscreen wipers, you know like on motor cars, to help keep the camera lens clear of water.”
    The Supervisor made a mental note of that, windscreen wipers for cameras, thinking he would mention it to No.2. It was a filthy day outside, and this probably meant a quiet shift for the Supervisor and his Observers. Only a fool would attempt an escape in such weather.

    Outside the milkman was getting drenched on his round, the candy-striped canopy of his red David Brown garden tractor afforded no protection whatsoever against the torrential rain! He had seen only two people out and about, numbers’ 60 and 61 who both gave him a cheery greeting from beneath their umbrellas.
   The rain had helped fill the Free Sea to overflowing, flooding the Piazza, not that it mattered there was no-one promenading this morning. The four taxis sat on the rank unlikely to be called upon while the rain persisted. Gardeners were idle this morning, unable to tend the flower borders, cut grass, trim hedges, or work in the woods. The annual refit of the Stone boat had had to be put on hold until the weather eased. However in the workshop a certain amount of work was being carried out. A tree had been carefully selected a few days before in the woods, felled, and the branches lopped off. Now in the workshop the trimming off the bark was carried out, and a new mast was being fashioned for the Stone Boat. New ropes were fashioned into new rigging.

    No.4 had been forced to make his own breakfast, as it was far too wet for the housemaids to go out. They would have been drenched pulled along in an open trailer by a slow garden tractor. The food would have been sodden as well as stone cold! Eating a piece of buttered toast in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other he stood looking out of the window wondering what to do in the village on a wet Wednesday, under normal circumstances that might have meant a trip to the cinema. He glanced at the television in the corner of the room, maybe not. The new Recreation Hall sprang to mind, a bit too far in this rain! The café for lunch perhaps, a quick sprint through the rain, no, not when he could make himself another a cup of coffee and a sandwich here in his own cottage. He decided to sit the weather out, and selected a copy of Village Weekly from the magazine rack, then settled himself down in the comfort of an armchair.


As it happens, had No.4 made that dash to the café at lunchtime he wouldn’t have been the only customer. A few citizens through a sense of boredom had ventured out in the rain, and made it as far as the café. Their umbrellas leaning up just inside the door dripping water on the floor as they sat enjoying morning tea and cake. The main topic of the day being the weather!
   The portly shopkeeper in blue and white striped apron and straw boater stood at his open shop door. Business was slow; he had not had a customer all morning, hardly surprising considering the weather. In fact it was hardly worth opening up. And yet it had given him the time to begin a stock take, and if the rain persisted it would afford him time to make up his account books instead of having to do it in the evening. Closing the door the shopkeeper returned to the business of stocktaking.

    The Brass Band concert had been cancelled, there being no point playing the Biezt’s L’Arlesienne when there would be no-one to listen. Instead citizens were entertained with music played through black speakers in their cottages. And yet two people could be seen in the Bandstand cuddling up together and holding hands as there was a slight chill in the air.

    What to do in the village on a wet Wednesday afternoon? Certainly the persistent rain had put a completely different complexion on the village no promenading in the Piazza, no croquet played on the village green. The tide was in so no sunbathing, or playing beach ball, or swimming in the Lido. The sea was heavy, waves washed over the quayside, and crashed against a cottage and the Camera Obscura at the far end of the quayside. The rain kept almost everyone in their cottages, only the hardiest of souls braved the weather. In fact the torrential rain had put a complete dampener on everything, except in the Old People’s Home where the senior citizens were kept entertained with a game of bingo. Only the hardiest of souls braved the weather. In fact the only thing the rain was good for was that it helping to maintain security. Or so it was thought.

    No.72 had kept to his cottage all morning. After breakfast he sat reading the magazine ‘Village Mercury.’ It looked as though he was relaxing, enjoying his own company, glad that the housemaid had not called round to disturb him by flicking a yellow duster about the place, when actually he was biding his time. He made himself lunch which consisted of a tin of village baked beans on toast and a cup of tea. He stood looking out of the window, it was still raining. He put on his dark green anorak and dark blue yachting cap, and ventured outside.
   He walked this way and that ignoring the pouring rain and splashed through a stream which had once been a cobbled path. He sheltered for a few moments in the Portico next to the flooded village green observing the seemingly deserted village. Whether he was being


observed by anyone from a window he cared not, because to them he was just a fool to be out in such weather. As for the Observers he was trusting that their view via the surveillance cameras was obscured by the rain. He moved on passed the statue of Hercules with the world on his shoulders on this right, the pink pavilion on his left. He turned left along another short cobbled path and along the road down toward the Old People’s Home. He stopped, opened a gate on this left and went down the steps, these led towards the triangular lawn by the sea wall, as well as the slipway.
   By this time No.72 was thoroughly soaked through, but he cared not as he walked towards the slipway. There were two jet boats moored along side. Instinctively he crouched down, wiped the rain from his eyes, and looked about him through the pouring rain. There was no-one he could see, and hoped they could not see him, those Observers. He unbuttoned and rolled back the dark blue cover of the first jet boat before casting off, then jumped aboard. He started the boat’s engine and steered a course towards the middle of the estuary, hoping to be effectively screened by the torrential rain. The sea was heavy, large waves crashed over the bows and into the boat.

   In the Control Room it was impossible to keep a sharp watch, the surveillance cameras virtually useless with all the rain. And yet there was one device No.72 had not accounted for, could not have accounted for.
    “Supervisor, sonar contact bearing red 140” the operator announced.
    The Supervisor joined the operator at the sonar screen.
    “There” said the operator pointing to a small dot on the screen “speed estimated at about 8 knots and moving away from the village towards the mouth of the estuary.”
   “Heading towards the village?” the Supervisor asked.
   “No sir, away from the village, towards the mouth of the estuary.”
   “Moving away from the village you say, must be one of our own jet boats” the Supervisor said picking up the yellow receiver of the intercom “orange alert.”
   While the Supervisor was making his report to No.2, at the bottom of the seabed a segment of the Guardian was released from the containment area. The white sphere rose up through the calm of the water only to burst onto the surface of a rough and heavy sea. And yet as the rain beat down upon the amorphous creature, it was not impeded as it skimmed across the large waves towards the mouth of the estuary, and the small boat approaching.
   Under dark grey clouds the jet boat was battered by the waves making it heavy going. At the helm No.72 did his best to keep the rain out of his eyes by keeping his head down behind the windscreen. In the distance was something white, something sphere like. He wiped his eyes again and peered through the windshield. The white sphere became larger and larger and on a collision course with the boat.



No.72 finally recognized it for what it was, and pulled hard the helm to starboard then to port, back to starboard, to port, and starboard the boat zigzagging through the waves. This action averted the collision and the jet boat left the Guardian behind in its wake. But the sphere swiftly turned and gave chase. Both rain and sea water had accumulated in the bottom of the open boat which had washed under the engine cowling soaking the engine until it finally cut out and leaving the boat dead in the water. With waves washing over him he tried frantically to start the engine. In desperation he removed the cowling to find the engine awash. Then he heard it, the unmistakable blood curdling roar of the Guardian. It circled the drifting boat, then left the water and was in the boat. He saw a boat hook lying in the bottom of the boat, he reached for it and with it managed to fend the Guardian off. But then he slipped and fell backwards, the Guardian was on him in an instant, its membrane covering his face as he clawed at it, his mouth opened he screamed and fought for breath. Then his body fell limp as he fell into unconsciousness.
    In the Control Room the sonar operator reported the jet boat had come to a stop and was drifting on the sea. The Supervisor picked up the yellow receiver of the intercom and made his report to No.2.
    “Have M. S. Polotska put to sea and recover No.72 and take the jet boat in tow.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    In the boathouse, Gunter was working on the engine of the motor ship, while Ernst was in the galley brewing tea, when the call came through.
    “What is it?” came the voice from the engine room.
    “We’ve been ordered to put to sea.”
    “What in this weather?”
    “We have been ordered to put to sea, there’s a life in danger, and a boat to be salvaged.”
    “Who say’s so?”
    “By order from control.”
    “If they think we’re putting to sea in this weather they’ve got another think coming!” Gunter shouted back from the engine room and swore when he dropped a spanner. Then reluctantly he emerged  from the engine room, and went and opened the boathouse doors while in the wheelhouse Ernst took the helm and started the engine. Gunter jumped aboard and M. S. Polotska was eased out of the boathouse and out into the estuary.
    “Whereabouts’ is this distressed mariner?” Gunter asked looking at the binnacle.
    “He was reported heading towards the mouth of the estuary, the boat is no longer under command and drifting.”
   Thanks to the clear-view wiper {a high speed rotating blade set in the glass} which


gave Ernst a clear view even in such heavy weather.

    It was sheer madness to carry out a search in such heavy weather, but M. S. Polotsak was forced to operate as a lifeboat, and a couple of times she had been in danger of capsizing. To spot a small boat in such a heavy sea…and then suddenly there it was, the jet boat, half filled with water and moments away from sinking. Drawing alongside as best they could in such heavy conditions Gunter went out on deck and made his way to the stern. It was dangerous work as the motor ship dipped and rolled, but he managed to tie one end of a rope to the handrail, the other he rolled up and slung over his shoulder. Climbing over the railing he waited, and looked up towards the wheelhouse through the rain, then over the side into the water as a wave rose up, washing over him on the deck. Then another wave, but this time the jet boat was pushed up against the Polotska and Gunter jumped for all he was worth.
   The jet boat was sinking and beyond salvaging. Quickly he brought the man round; gave him a nip of rum from his hip flask, and quickly  tied the end of the stout rope around the distressed sea fairer’s waist to act as a lifeline. The Polotska and the boat had drifted apart slightly, but No.72 was still attached via the life line. Gunter explained what he must do.
    “Are you ready?” Gunter shouted.
    “I…I think so” No.72 shouted getting unsteadily to his feet.
    “When I tell you, jump and get a hold of the railing and heave yourself aboard, I’ll be behind you.”
   A wave washed the jet boat back towards the Polotska, in the wheelhouse Ernst put the engine in reverse stalling the movement of the little ship for a moment. The jet boat hit the Polotska’s hull and No.72 jumped for it. His wet hands grasped the wet railing, his grip was unsure as he slipped towards a watery grave, but was saved by the lifeline. Gunter held his arms up and waited, then he made his own leap and grasping the railing heaved himself aboard the Polotska. On the deck he slipped and fell, waves continually breaking and washing over the side. No.72 was left dangling at the end of his lifeline and dragged along as the Polotska got underway once more. Gunter struggled to his feet, took a hold on the rope and heaved on it with all his strength. No.72, now half drowned and exhausted, felt himself being pulled upwards, then out of the water as he banged against the hull, the handrail just above his head. He stretched his arms upwards and grasped the rail and was eventually pulled aboard.

    The next thing No.72 knew he was in a cabin, soaked to the skin, battered and bruised but alive. He lay in a bunk wrapped in a blanket. After a moment or two he climbed out somewhat unsteadily to his feet and then fell against a cupboard as the deck swayed beneath him. Making it out of the cabin and into the narrow gangway he made his way to a short ladder leading up into the wheelhouse. He took hold of the railings and climbed the ladder. Gunter manned the radio sending


a message to control, while Ernst was at the helm steering a course for home.
    The small ship was pitching and tossing which made 72 grasp for a hand rail “Where am I?”
    “On board the Polotska” Gunter told him.
    “Who are you?”
    “Well I’m Gunter, the man at the wheel is Ernst.”
    “How did you find me?”
    “We received a radio message about a mariner in distress.”
    “Where…..where are we going?”
    “Home Ernst” told him “we won’t be long. What the devil were you doing out in a small boat in weather like this?”

    “Home, where’s home?”
    “The village!”

    The pair of steel doors opened and three men stood in the open doorway.
    “Don’t bring that wet in here!” No.2 shouted.
    The two guardians removed their oilskins and boots, as No.72 stood between them wrapped in a blanket dripping water on the floor. They took hold of No.72 and were about to march him down the ramp.
    No.2 held up a hand “Stop!” and walked out from behind his desk “What you did was foolhardy, putting yours and these two men’s lives at risk. What have you to say for yourself?”
    No.72 looked a pathetic sight, weather beaten, sodden to the skin, and perhaps more importantly defeated.
    “Have you nothing to say for yourself, come speak up” urged No.2 “Oh take him away!”

   Outside it was late afternoon and the rain finally began to ease, and by late evening the rain had ceased completely. But everywhere was water logged, and in the woods it was as though it was still raining as raindrops continued to drop from the trees. Citizens began emerge from their cottages to take the early evening air before curfew time. The café was still open, as was the General Store despite there having hardly been a customer all day, the shopkeeper thought he might catch some late afternoon early evening trade. No.4 stood on the small balcony of his cottage drinking a cup of coffee there was an air of freshness about the village, and a scent which he could not put his mind to hung in the air.
   As the evening drew on lights in cottages were switched on, as exterior lights on timers also clicked on. A few citizens still lingered in the Piazza enjoying the peaceful evening atmosphere of the village. Housemaids scurried this way and that, calling at cottages in order to make citizens nightcaps of hot chocolate. In ‘4 Private’ the announcement came that it was ten minutes to curfew, “the minutes are ten" said 


the quiet, soothing female voice. He was in the bathroom preparing himself for bed when the cottage door opened and a middle aged housemaid in white sailors hat, black dress, and white lacy apron appeared. She made herself busy in the kitchen making a nightcap for No.4, who emerged from the bathroom in pyjamas and dressing gown.   
   Quiet, soothing music, a lullaby was being played through the black speaker over which a voice announced “Curfew time, 5 minutes to curfew sleep well.”
    The housemaid took his nightcap through into the bedroom and placed it on the bedside table.
    “You had better hurry, it’s almost curfew” he told her.
    “Oh plenty of time sir, you’re my last gentleman this evening. Goodnight sir.”
    “Goodnight” he replied and sitting on the edge of the bed drank his nightcap, tonight he wanted to sleep.
    The housemaid let herself out, closing the door behind her the electric mechanism locking the door for the night.