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Tuesday 31 May 2022

An Exercise In Logistics Chapter 17


An Act of Betrayal And Deception

    There had been a change in Number 2, now a portly man, balding, a man very much of the old school tie brigade, and dressed in the usual attire for the Chairman of The Village. He sat alone in his office. and had just been speaking with his superior, Number 1 on the telephone, who was far from happy with the current situation in The Village. There had been no fewer than eight recent deaths, citizens who had been found murdered and Number 2 was being held responsible. Not that he was the murderer, but Number 1 did expect him to resolve the situation within the week. And true to form he was under a considerable amount of pressure from all sides who wanted to know what he was going to do about it. And as if his situation was not bad enough, the pair of steel doors opened, and the tall athletic figure of Number 6 marched down the ramp and approached the desk.

    “I can’t be doing with you today Number Six, why don’t you go and bother someone else!”

    “There have been eight deaths in The Village, all of them murdered, what are you doing about it?” barked Number 6, leaning across the desk.

    “I am doing what I can” returned Number 2.

    “Well you seem to be doing precious little!”

    “What can I do? There have been no witnesses, there has been little or no forensics. I have increased security and surveillance, the number of guardians on patrol have been increased. Anyway why do you care all of a sudden, about what happens to the citizens?”

    “I don’t, but innocent people have been murdered.”

    Number 2 picked up a pathology report on his desk “They all died the same way.”

    “Each victim had his or her neck broken, snapped like a twig it seems. You have a serial killer on your hands” Number 6 said, having the knack of reading reports upside down.

    “Instead of criticising all the time, why don’t you do something completely out of character for a change and help!” Number 2 suggested.

    “You, with all this technology at your finger tips, with Observers who see and hear everything, you need my help. The very least you should have done by now is to identify the killer” laughed Number 6.

    “Like it or not Number Six we are in the same boat. You, me, the citizens, all of us.”

    Number 6 stood back, the sudden realisation of the situation “You do, you have a serial killer in The Village and you don’t know who it is.”


    “What do you think we are Number Six, stupid or something? Of course we know who it is, the trouble is we haven’t found a way of neutralising it yet” returned Number 2, now wanting to confide in the Prisoner.

    “Then don’t you think its time you did…. you said ‘it,’ “it” suggests something that isn’t human” Number 6 suggested pacing the floor.

    “That’s because it isn’t human….it’s the Guardian!”

    Number 6 stopped pacing the floor “That white membranic thing isn’t capable of breaking necks, it suffocates its victims. So why don’t you just deactivate it?”

    “We would if we could, only we have no control over it as this particular segment is resisting. And so far our scientists, and bio-chemists and technicians don’t know how or why the Guardian has metamorphosed into human form” Number 2 explained.

    It was at that moment that the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone on the desk began to bleep.

    Number 2 picked up the phone up “Yes what is it, what do you want?” said a man under a deal of pressure.

    “Supervisor here.”

    “If you have phoned me to inform me that someone is attempting to escape, I don’t want to hear it” snapped Number 2.

    “An escape sir, no it’s not an escape, quite the opposite in fact” returned the Supervisor.

    “Then what is it?”

    “A white sports car has just turned down the long drive and is fast approaching The Village” reported the Supervisor.

    “What! Why didn’t Post Fourteen report this sooner?” Number 2 snapped his question.

    The Supervisor-Number 106 waited and drew in a deep breath, then spoke in a heavy German accent “Post Fourteen has not reported in for over an hour sir. So I sent security to investigate, Post Fourteen was found dead, his neck had been broken.”

    This latest news stunned Number 2 “Very well, where is this car now?”

   In the Control Room the Supervisor watched the car’s progress upon the wall screen “Winding its way along the drive, it’s almost here.”

   “When the car arrives have security take the occupants to a secure area and then wait for me” Number 2 ordered, switching off his phone.

    “Having a bad day?” Number 6 smirked “this must be a first for any Number Two, someone who is actually driving to The Village. Surely that shouldn’t be possible.”
    “It shouldn’t” 2 agreed.
    “I know, they’re tourists who have been given the wrong directions by some country yokel.


    “If truth be told, my day has just begun to improve, so what about it Number Six?”

    “What about what?”

    “You can see the pressure I am under, I’ve decided to promote you to the position of my assistant.”

    Number 6 burst out laughing “You promote me as your assistant, what happened to.....oh yes he was the first victim!”

    “I attended his funeral. If you don’t want the job you had better get out” Number 2 told him indignantly.

    Number 6 turned and walked towards the pair of steel doors “What you’re just going to sit there?”

    “All that can be done is being done.”

    “Fine, then you won’t need my help after all, will you?”

    The pair of steel doors opened then closed behind the departing Number 6.

    The oversized red curved telephone began to bleep he picked it up “Number Two here sir…… a car sir” he said pressing a button on the control panel “yes sir I have it on  screen now, it’s almost here...... security will apprehend the driver......I see sir, well I will sir, in the closest possible touch.”

    In the white sports car, driven by a middle aged man wearing a sports jacket and grey polo shirt, his wife also middle aged sat in the passenger seat, wearing a low cut summer dress and a head scarf.

    “How much further? We’ve been driving for miles with no sight nor sound of anyone or anything, I could murder a G and T” Lesley said, having gazed out on the same monotonous countryside for the past three hours.

    “Nearly there darling, less than a couple of miles now, look there’s the castle I told you about” replied her husband, bringing the car to a halt at a fork in the road.

    “Where exactly are we?”

    “That my darling is Castell Deudraeth. Its part of the Italianate village I was telling you about. Looks like the restoration work has been completed” observed her husband.

    The white sports car turned down the left fork and wound its way along the narrow hydrangea lined road towards Portmeirion.

    “Are you sure this is the way, there hasn’t been a sign post for miles?” his wife asked him.

    “Relax darling I know the way.”

And that was the peculiar thing, there hadn’t been a sign post for miles, and yet there were all the familiar surroundings to be seen. He had simply followed the roads because he knew the way to where they were going. After all he had been there many times before and once there he wanted his wife to enjoy the peaceful, tranquil atmosphere of the village for herself. The late summer sunshine filtered through the trees which now flanked either side of the road, as he drove the sports car expertly round every bend in the road approaching the toll booth.    


    “It is rather quiet darling” his wife said

    “The hotel is rather exclusive at this time of the year.”

    “Yes, but how exclusive?”

    “Portmeirion, it’s an Italianate Village, built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, he was an architect you know.”

    “No I didn’t know.”

    “Portmeirion has all the amenities one could want, an outdoor swimming pool, long walks in the woods, its set on an estuary. The Hotel sports good food and fine wines, there’s even a golf course nearby, you’ll love it darling. It will be like a second honeymoon, only better” her husband suggested.

    In the Control room the Supervisor stood watching as security waited to take the two occupants of the sports car in hand. Picking up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone he reported the situation to Number 2. Still watching the screen the Supervisor’s head was full of questions “Where had this car come from? Who were the two occupants?” No-one has ever arrived here like this before! Was it merely a question of them being lost?”

    “Supervisor, a white figure running at tremendous speed along the road in the direction of the car” reported an observer.

    “De-activate Rover immediately” the Supervisor ordered.

    “The Guardian has not been activated Supervisor, that thing out there……”  

    The white sports car turned the final bend in the road and the engine began to cough and splutter, then through the trees the blinding glare of afternoon sunshine just for a second or two but long enough for the driver not to see the white membranic figure until it was too late. The driver pulled hard on the steering wheel as the white figure bounced off the bonnet, its smooth featureless face pressed up hard against the windscreen for a second, before the sports car swerved off the road, ploughed through ferns and bushes, before crashing into a tree. Steam hissed from the smashed radiator, the windscreen shattered, the car crumpled beyond repair. The driver slumped over the steering wheel, blood slowly trickling from an open wound, while the passenger her head lay to one side, both unmoving, both unconscious.

    “Emergency, emergency, emergency, emergency” announced the Supervisors voice through The Village public address system “emergency, emergency, security and medics to crash site on east road. Warning, the mutant Guardian is reported to be in the area.”

    The white membranic figure was standing by the wreckage when suddenly there came the sound of sirens, as the first of the two white Mini-Mokes came round the bend in the road. The white figure ran off into the woods. The two ambulances stopped, four armed security guards jumped out to secure the area, while four medics attended to the two people in the car. They were unconscious but still alive. Stretchers were taken from the two Red Cross trailers towed behind the taxis, and the two unconscious bodies carried on the stretchers and placed in the trailers, then driven away to the hospital where doctors and nurses stood by.


    First there was pain, then light, as the patient slowly opened his eyes trying to focus on the pair of dark shadowy figures standing over him.

    “A nasty head injury nurse, and badly concussed he’s lucky to still be with us” the doctor said.

    “Doctor, the patient is opening his eyes” said a nurse.

    The patient leaned up and opened his mouth to speak, but no words issued forth. The doctor saw the anxiety upon the patient’s face.
    “Lie back and rest, you are in hospital, the woman who was with you is in another ward, she has yet to regain consciousness.”

    The patient laid back and closed his eyes.

    “Take care of him nurse, I’ll see how the woman is doing and I’ll inform Number Two that the man has regained consciousness.”

    “Very well doctor.”

    The nurse’s attention was then distracted for a moment by a patient in another bed, not for long, but it was long enough for Leslie Kern to pull back the sheets and swing his legs out of bed. He sat up and the pain in his head made him feel physically sick. Through blurred eyesight he could see that he was indeed in a hospital ward, but which hospital and where was his wife? The patient climbed out of bed and took a few unsteady paces forward and was about to collapse in a heap on the floor when a pair of strong hands caught him. Two male orderlies carried the patient back to his bed, the nurse tucked him in while the doctor was sent for.

    “Keep him under close observation nurse, if he gets out of bed again sedate him” the doctor ordered.

    The patient lay there in bed. He was trying to remember, a long winding narrow lane, hydrangeas, his wife, the glare of the late summer sunshine through the trees. There’s something wrong with the engine. In the road ahead, a face, smooth, no eye sockets, no nose, no mouth only smooth ahhh………..came the scream. Two male medics rushed into the ward and restrained the patient as he struggled and screamed. The nurse hurried to prepare a syringe, its needle inserted into the patient’s upper left arm, a sharp sensation then a strange feeling as if he was floating away, floating way into oblivion!

    Morning sunshine streamed in through the window catching him full in the face. Slowly Leslie sat up and brushed back his hair wincing as he touched something tender, in his head a little man going ten to the dozen with a hammer. Pulling back the sheets he gingerly climbed out of bed. Donning his dressing gown he crossed the bedroom to the mirror, he looked drawn and haggard. On his forehead was a large dressing which he pulled away to reveal a nasty head wound. Touching it, he winced with pain and replaced the dressing. Then at the window he looked out upon the familiar view of the Italianate village of Portmeirion. At least he was in familiar surroundings, but what had happened and where was his wife? It was then that he remembered the accident and the featureless face at the windscreen. Where was his wife? Leslie made a search of the cottage, the bedroom where the wardrobe contained only one set of clothes. A cream blazer with black piping and a black penny farthing badge with the red numerals 55, beige coloured trousers, a black turtle neck sweater and deck shoes. The kitchen well stocked and fully equipped, and finally the lounge, but of his wife there was no sign, and then he remembered the hospital. Perhaps she was more hurt than he had been and had been kept in over night. This thought staved off the panic that was building up within him. A helicopter was heard flying over head, a guest arriving he thought. Then he saw the telephone upon the occasional table, where the day date calendar read Tuesday 30th September. He lifted the receiver of the cream telephone to call reception.


    “Number please?” asked a female operator.

    “Three hundred” Leslie replied, funny he’d never been asked that before.

    “Hello” said Number 300 having lifted the telephone receiver to her ear.

    “Reception, good…….”

    “Yes I can hear you young man” Number 300 confirmed.

    “What?” he asked.

    “You asked if the reception was good and I told you that I can hear you, what do you want young man?” asked 300.

    “I am trying to get through to Reception” Leslie replied.

    “Well you seem to be getting through alright, I can hear you.”

    “Tell me who are you?” asked Leslie, who suddenly realised that he had been put through to one of the other cottages by mistake.

    “I am Number three hundred.”

    Leslie put down the receiver and tried again.

    “Number please?” asked the female voice again.

    “Can you put me through to Reception please?” he asked.

    “Reception?” queried the operator.

    “Yes, the main reception, or the Hotel’s Reception if you prefer” he said getting a little irritated.

    “What hotel reception?” asked the operator.

    “The hotel here at Portmeirion” he demanded.

    “There is no hotel sir. This is The Village” the Operator informed him.

    He put down the receiver. Stupid girl, he thought, you just can’t get the staff these days! Oh well it was a lovely morning, a walk to reception wouldn’t do him any harm. Having washed, shaved and dressed in the only clothes in the wardrobe he was just about to leave his apartment and set off for reception when the door opened and the figure of Number 2 stood in the doorway.


    “Glad to see you up and about at long last, not too many ill effects I trust?”

    “Who the devil are you, the maid or something, I was just on my way out, and where’s my wife?”

    “I assure you I am not the maid. Aren’t you going to invite me in?” asked Number 2 crossing the threshold into the lounge.
    “I suspect a man like you wouldn’t wait to be invited in.”   

    “Perhaps we could talk over breakfast” Number 2 suggested.
    It was at this point a maid dressed in a dark blue dress, white lacy apron, and white sailor’s cap entered carrying a breakfast tray. In the kitchen the maid laid out the breakfast things on the kitchen table, curtsied, saluted Number 2 and departed the cottage.

    “Just like a real home from home don’t you think?” asked Number 2.

    “Portmeirion you mean?” watching the man help himself to toast.

    “Is that is where you think you are?” asked Number 2, busy buttering a slice of toast.

    “Where else would I be?” asked Leslie sitting down at the table.

    “In the Village” Number 2 told him.

    “The Village! Where’s that?” he asked glancing at the white penny farthing badge upon the man’s left lapel of his blazer “you I take it are Number Two?”

   “And you are Number Fifty-five, that’s the introductions dispensed with. It can be quite a shock at first we understand that. It’s a pity we didn’t know you were coming, otherwise we would have prepared your cottage better for you.”

    Look where is my wife and what have you done with my clothes?” Number 55 bellowed.

    “We know all about you Doctor Leslie Kern, but in the photographs we have of you, you are wearing spectacles.”

    “I changed to wearing contact lenses two months ago, now what about my wife and my clothes?”

    Number 2 took his computer slate from his blazer pocket and made a note directly into Number 55’s file “As for your clothes, they have been put into storage. As for where you are, well you have been told, that’s all you need to know” answered Number 2 eating his buttered toast “Are you going to let that breakfast go cold?”

    “And my wife?”

    “She came off rather worse than you in the car crash” Number 2 said pouring himself a cup of tea “You are Doctor Leslie Kern. You and your wife were on holiday and you were on your way to where… to where?”

    “To a village in North Wales.”


    “Have you looked out of the window this morning?”
    Leslie walked over to the window and pulled the curtain apart.

    “Lovely view isn’t it, and you will be interested to learn that you do not just happen to be here.”

    “You say that I was brought here. Well there was only myself and my wife in the car and I was driving, so Number Two or whoever you are, no one brought me here” Number 55 confirmed.

    “You came here of your own free will. Better and better” said Number Two.

    I want to see my wife, please take me to her” Number 55 demanded.

    “That’s not possible, your wife is no longer with us!” Number 2 told him.

    “Lesley dead. No it’s not possible, she can’t be dead.”

    “The doctors did what they could.”

    Number 55 sat at the table his head buried in his hands.

    “The funeral was yesterday, everything was seen to be done correctly” Number 2 assured him.

    He looked up at the man standing over him “Yesterday. Why so soon. Why were you in so much a hurry to bury my wife?”

    “So soon? Oh I see what you mean, you’ve been here over a week.”

    “Then perhaps I could see my wife’s grave?”

    “Of course, in a day or so when you are feeling more up to it” retorted Number 2 “and then we shall talk again, about you and your

future with us. You have let your breakfast get cold!

    Number 2 took his leave of the cottage leaving Number 55 alone with his grief, but it was not long before the door opened once more. A cheery young maid dressed in a dark blue dress, lace apron, a sailor’s hat and deck shoes walked into the kitchen.

    “Who are you?”

    “I’m your personal maid” Number 23 said, a pretty young blonde, smiled at him.

    You’re not you know, get out!” he barked sweeping his arm across the kitchen table sweeping the breakfast things onto the floor.
    The maid very nearly jumped out of her skin “Now look what you have done, I expect you think I’m going to clear up that mess!”
    “You’re the housemaid!”

    Number 2 had by this time returned to his office where the Supervisor- Number 28 was waiting for him.

    “How is the new arrival coming along?” asked the Supervisor “he didn’t exactly follow the usual behaviour pattern.”

    “We shall give him time to settle in, to get used to his new

surroundings, and then we shall put him to work.”

    “Time is what we don’t have” returned the Supervisor.

    “No-one is more aware of that than me, except for you. We’ll give him until tomorrow morning! ” retorted Number 2 taking to his chair.

    “And how do you know that this Doctor of Genetics will help with our current problem?”


    Number 2 shot the Supervisor a casual glance “Because the man is grieving for his dead wife and the best remedy for grief is work. And we shall keep him fully occupied. A challenge like this, he won’t be able to stop himself. Besides when push comes to shove he will have no say in the matter!” He picked up a file of latest reports and began to read through the top one “I take it the latest attempt to establish control over this mutant Guardian failed?”

    “It’s in the report, every attempt has failed. Yet there have been no further attacks, but the creature has been seen. Once by Number 36 who saw the creature looking in at her through the cottage window” the Supervisor reported.

    Number 2 put down the file of reports he had been scanning through, in exasperation “How can something with no eyes see?”

    “I don’t know Number Two. Surveillance has been increased and all posts, as well as The Village are on permanent yellow alert.”

    “Good, and have the curfew time brought forward two hours” Number 2 ordered, closing the file leaning forward he pressed a button on the control panel.
    A face appeared on the wall screen, a technician wearing spectacles and a white coat looked into the lens of the camera.

    “So far containment of the Guardian on the seabed is one hundred percent. If we can replicate such a containment area on land, we could possibly lure the mutant Guardian into it.”

    “What would that take?” asked Number 2.

    “Possibly a high voltage electrical force field” Number 250 suggested.

    “To simply contain it, not to regain control of it?”

    “We have been working on a section of membrane” 250 reported, in an attempt to understand how the mutation of its genetic make-up came about. Each time we have come even close, the mutant membrane alters and mutates again. It is likely that the best result we can arrive at, is containment and eventual complete eradication of the creature.”

    “I have good news for you, help is at hand. One of the World’s top geneticists has recently arrived in The Village. He requires a little time to come to terms with his new surroundings. But I assure you he will join you all in your work tomorrow. For now, carry on working towards this electrical containment field of yours.”

    “Yes Number Two” 250 said turning away from the screen and back to his work.

    Pressing a button on the control panel of his desk, the wall screen went dark.

    “What about destroying this mutation?”
    We must put our faith in this geneticist to either alter the genetic makeup of the membrane, or find a way to destroy it totally. Now I am sure you have duties to attend to in the Control Room.”


    “Yes Number Two” but remained standing where he was.

    Number 2 picked up the telephone and looked at the Supervisor “Any reason you are still here?”

    “Number Six sir, it appears he has been sticking his nose in, asking questions in the wrong quarter.”

    “Well whatever else we have to contend with, there is always Number Six” Number 2 said, his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone.

    “Whatever he is he is resilient, keeps a cool head, works best when under extreme pressure and he has an absolute knack of dealing with the unknown, a good man to have on our side on any terms, wouldn’t you say?”

    Number 2 nodded, the Supervisor turned and left the office.
    “Yes sir, Number Two here…… I understand that but now with the help of doctor Kern….. yes I did offer Number Six the position as my assistant as you suggested but he turned it down…. Yes sir I give you my word in two days at most………. yes sir I realise all our futures depend upon it.”

    Number 55 had left his cottage and was wandering about taking in his new surroundings. He stood in the middle of the road observing the passers-by, when a white Mini-Moke drove towards him. Stepping to one side he flagged the taxi down.

    “Where to sir?” asked the taxi driver.

    “Take me to, no wait…. Take me to the cemetery” he said climbing aboard the Mini Moke.

    The driver released the hand brake and engaging first gear drove off down the street, passed the Town Hall, and down the hill towards the Old People’s Home. Then taking a hairpin bend the taxi was driven down a slipway onto the sand and sped along the beach.

    “I asked you to take me to the cemetery.”  

    “Yes, and that is where we are going, won’t be long now sir” the driver told him

    At the cemetery headstones and crosses so often buffeted by the sea, rose out of the sand. Climbing out of the taxi Number 55 stood looking at the headstones, he was looking for a most recent one.

    “Do you want me to wait?” asked the driver.
    There were two new headstones amongst the grey sea worn markers, both with numbers, no names. A cemetery, here on the beach, he imagined what a watery grave it must be at times.
    “Do you want a ride back to the village sir, or will you walk?”
    “Can you take me to the nearest town?”
    “We are only the local service.”
    “Then I shall walk” he said. 
    “That will be two units then.”
    “Oh never mind, pay me next time” the driver told him.
    He stood watching the Mini-Moke disappear across the sand back 
in the direction of the Village.


    A tall figure now emerged from the rocks.
    “Looking for someone specific?” asked Number 6

    Leslie looked at the man walking towards him “My wife, she died a few days ago. I think she lies there.”

    Number 6 looked towards the headstones “How do you know that your wife is buried here”

    “Number Two told me she had died. We were on our way here.... I was driving, there was a car crash my wife died.”

    “You were driving here, a new one on me!” said Number 6 in surprise.

    “Well we weren’t driving here exactly. I have no idea how we came to be here. Look I’ve been through this already. Now I’ve you on my back. Can’t you leave me alone?”

    “You didn’t attend the funeral?”
    “Then how do you know your wife is dead?”
    “I have Number Two’s word.”
    “When you’ve been here long enough you will learn that Number Two’s word is worth very little. We had better go.”

    Number 6 lead the way up to the top of the cliffs passed a small lighthouse.
    Leslie turned to face Number 6 “What’s your game?

    “You’re new here Fifty-five. Just because Number Two tells you something, it doesn’t always follow that that something is correct. When he says your wife is dead it doesn’t make it so.”

    “I’m no number, my name is Leslie Kern.”

    “No names are used here. You are Number Fifty-Five, I am Number Six.”

    “Well Number Six, what makes you think that my wife could still be alive?”
    “Experience of Number Two”
    They made their way back to The Village via the quayside.
    “And you, are you working with Number Two, assigned to me?”

    “Its nothing to me I assure you, nor am I Number Two’s man, it’s just curiosity because no one simply drives here to The Village. They wouldn’t have allowed you passed the post guarding the Outer Zone.”

    “If you are not Number Two’s assistant, who are you?” Number 55 demanded.

    “A prisoner just like you!”

    I’m not a prisoner!” barked 55.
    “Yes you keep telling yourself that!” Number 6 told him “and

remember, no-one arrives at The Village without good reason!”

    Having returned to The Village Number 6 was about to cut the lost and forlorn figure of Number 55 loose, but then........

    “Like a coffee?” asked Number 6 stopping at the cafe.

    Number 55 nodded taking the offered seat at a vacant table.



    “Two coffees” Number 6 asked the waitress.

    “Is this place for real, all these people in their colourful clothes, taxis which won’t take you anywhere other than here” Number 55 asked.

    The waitress returned carrying two coffees “That will be four Credit Units.”

    “How long have you been here?”
    “Too long!”
    “You have never tried to escape?”
    “You will soon learn there is no escape.”
    “That is defeatist talk!”
    They drank their coffee.
    “You haven’t been here five minutes, you’ll learn” Number 6 told him.
    “And the people here?”
    “Prisoners here for one reason or another, people who will rot here until the day they die, and then there are the guardians!”
   They finished their coffee.

    “Number 2 says that he knows all about me, he said that I was brought here, that they have a use for such a man as I!”

    “What is it you did on the outside?” asked Number 6 rising from the table.

    “I am a mathematician” Number 55 answered.

    Meanwhile on the other side of The Village a girl was busy selling a bouquet of flowers to Number 54, a stout woman in a yellow hat.

    “For old Mrs Seventy-five are they? She’s ninety-three today, a marvellous age” said the girl busy handing over the wrapped flowers. Number 54 handed over her card and sniffed the flowers. The card handed back to her she walked off along the path with her purchase, completely unaware of the white figure watching from its place of concealment in the bushes. To say the figure resembled that of a man would not be an exaggeration, he was nearly seven feet tall, bald but there the resemblance ended. For the figure was white from head to foot. Where the eyes, mouth, and nose should have been there was nothing but smooth membrane. The flower seller was busying herself with the display on her stall, it was a warm afternoon, but suddenly something made the blood in her veins run cold as she sensed something behind her, something in the bushes. Number 11could have run, she should have run, run for her very life, but she was paralysed to the spot as the thing suddenly sprang from the undergrowth  Arms outstretched it was upon her in an instant, its membranic hands around her throat suffocating the scream trying to escape.

    In the Control Room...... “Supervisor the flower seller Number Eleven has been attacked.”


    “All cameras scan” ordered the Supervisor picking up a grey ‘L’ shaped telephone “yellow alert, all units all posts yellow alert. Despatch armed security immediately. Get me Number Two.”

    On the wall screen was the image of the flowers seller’s stall and lying on the gravelled path was the dead girl Number 11. A Mini-Moke carrying four armed security guards in blue overalls and white helmets, boots, gloves and sporting dark glasses sped through The Village, its siren blaring out. Citizens stepped to the side of the road to let it pass. Arriving on the scene, security both searched and secured the immediate area. An ambulance with two medics aboard, towing a Red Cross trailer arrived in order to collect the body of Number 11.

    Number 2 was on his way to the Town Hall via the underground tunnel when he got the call, his mobile phone playing the ringtone ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’.

    “Number Two here, what’s occurring?”

    “Another attack sir, and another fatality I’m sorry to have to report, Number Eleven the flower seller.”

    “Despatch security and have the immediate area secured, scan and maintain scanning for the mutant until I give orders to the contrary and put the entire village on yellow alert.”

    “All this has been and is being done” reported the supervisor “Control Room is now ready for you.”

   “I’ll be right there” retorted Number 2 switching off his mobile.

   Meanwhile in the Control Room an Observer reported seeing the white membranic figure disappearing into the woods heading towards the northern perimeter. An attempt to contact Post 10 on the northern perimeter was made, Post 10 did not respond! Later Post 10 was found. His high powered rifle empty, his neck broken! But despite all the surveillance available, and the searches made by security, the mutant Guardian was not to be found.

    The following morning Number 2 paced the floor of his office, his face was deeply pensive and there was a general air of nervousness about him. The steel doors slid open and the tall bald-headed Butler stood at the top of the ramp as Number 55 walked slowly down the ramp with a nervous feeling of foreboding.

    “Number Fifty-five to see you” announced the butler.

    “And?” asked Number 2.
    “There’s no and. I have to announce your visitors, it’s in me contract” the butler replied with a smile “will you be wanting tea?”

    “No, Fifty-five is not making a social call” Number 2 replied.

    “Well now Number Fifty-five, thank you for finding the time to pay me a call…”

    “Cut the flannel, you made it quite clear that I had absolutely no choice in the matter” sneered 55.

    Number 2 smiled inwardly to himself “Quite. So seeing that we are telling it like it is this morning, and speaking of matter, what do you make of that?” Number 2 asked pointing to the wall screen.


    Number 55 turned and looked at the large wall screen which displayed what looked to be orange globules and long streaks of wax rising and falling in a liquid of some kind, very similar to that of a Lava lamp.

    “I have seen that effect before, in the Lava lamps in my apartment, I see that you have two of your own” observed Number 55 “surely you didn’t bring me here to just show me that.”

    “Indeed I did, it is why you were brought here Doctor Kern” Number 2 confirmed.

    ‘Then you must have an inordinate amount of time to waste on such foolishness!’ the Doctor sneered.

    “I assure you Doctor I am not given to wasting time, nor is that” again pointing to the screen “what you assume it to be, is far from it in fact. Please Doctor study the screen.”

    “What you are looking at Doctor is genetically engineered matter, membrane if you prefer. It is being held in its containment area at the bottom of the sea. It looks malevolent doesn’t it, as though it would do harm once released, and of course it would if it was not fully under our control”’ Number 2 explained.

    “What exactly is it?” asked the Doctor.

    “I told you, it’s genetically engineered matter” Number 2 answered.

    “So man has been meddling again has he? A slippery slope for mankind, no good will come of it you can be assured of that!” said the Doctor turning away from the screen.

    “Strange talk for a geneticist Doctor Kern, is it not?”
    “What good can come out of that?”

    “You see Doctor we have a small problem which you can help us with” said Number 2.

    “And why should I want to do that?” snapped the Doctor.

    “Oh please, I had hoped that you would not be difficult about this. Let me assure you that we have many ways and means at our disposal, don’t make me use an extreme measure” was Number 2’s threat.

    Doctor Kern thought for a moment, he looked at the man sat behind the desk and then at the wall screen “Very well, I’ll at least listen to what you have to say. Please go on.”

   “Nice of you to see it that way Doctor, our problem is that since a segment of membrane was released from the containment area the Guardian has gone rogue, more than that it has metamorphosed into human form over which we have no control. We attempted to deactivate it and return it to the containment area. It refused, and somehow, we don’t know how, but it has mutated. More than that it has taken on the psychology of a serial killer, eleven people so far have been murdered by it! Your task doctor is to capture and contain, and discover the cause of the mutation of the Guardian. I, and the community find ourselves totally in your hands.”

    Doctor Kern paced up and down weighing this up in his mind.


    “I’m not at all sure I can help you!”

    “Then let me to assure you Doctor that by hook or by crook you will help us in every way possible” Number 2 told him, feeling the anger welling up within him.

    “It seems you have made a slight mistake Number Two, you see….”

    “No Doctor it is you who is making the mistake, the mistake of crossing me” roared Number 2, losing his temper and telling the Doctor just how it is “we have gone to a great deal of trouble in having you brought here, this due to your expertise in genetics, so having gone to so much trouble it is my sworn duty to see that you do assist us in every possible way, with or without your conscious cooperation!”

    “Threaten me all you like, there is absolutely nothing you can do to make me cooperate, permit me to explain….”

    “Doctor I do not wish to harm you, perhaps we could make a deal in exchange for your co-operation.”

    “Tell me Number Two, do you and your people ever make mistakes?”

    Number 2 wondered where this discussion was going “We never fail if that is what you mean.”

    “That’s hardly the same thing” Doctor Leslie Kern said.

    “Enough, you have twenty four hours in which to reconsider your position Doctor Kern. Do not force me to take steps” Number 2 threatened “good day.”

    Number 6 was enjoying a cup of coffee sat at a table upon the lawn of the Old People’s Home, it was a beautiful day, citizens enjoying themselves on the beach sun bathing, digging sand castles or paddling in the shallow gullies of water left by the out going tide. The Admiral and his flag officer sailing model Battleships. A red and white striped kiosk set out on the beach was doing a small trade in selling beach balls, and senior citizens were clambering about the rigging of the Stone Boat as always. And Number 6, he was completing The Tally Ho crossword in record time, eleven minutes! It was a seemingly perfectly ordinary day in The Village, but yet there was still the underlying danger of the mutant, which could in all probability strike at any time. Then from across the lawn Number 6 observed the figure of Number 55 walking straight towards him. At his table Number 6 offered him the vacant chair as he put his newspaper and pen down.

    “You look as if you’re having a bad day” Number 6 observed, knowing full well that any day in The Village could be a bad day.

    “You could say that, and my situation can only get worse but to no fault of my own” 55 replied.

    “Can I help?” Number 6 offered.

    “Not unless you have any influence over Number Two, who is about to force me into helping him solve this mutation problem of his.”

    “What’s wrong in that, at least you will be helping to save citizens lives.”

    “Number 2 has allowed me twenty four hours in which to reconsider  my position.”


    “And are you?” asked Number 6 casually.

    “Am I what?”

    “Reconsidering your position?”

    “It wouldn’t do any good if I did. You see I am not the person Number Two has taken me for.”

    “And who does Number Two think you are?”

    “Doctor Leslie Kern.”

    “Well you are, you told me that much yourself”’ Number 6 said becoming just a little intrigued.

    “Yes, Doctor Leslie Kern…. Mathematician, not a geneticist as Number Two believes. My wife, Doctor Lesley Kern she is, was, the

Geneticist only now she lying in a grave in the cemetery, thankfully beyond the grasp of Number Two. So you see my predicament don’t


    “And yet......” Number 6 said thoughtfully.
    “And yet what?”
    “There are not enough new graves in the cemetery!”

    “If your wife isn’t dead, the opposite of dead is....”
    “No, it’s not possible. I brought my wife here, well obviously not here, I thought that here was another place. No I can’t believe that, my wife would ever betray me. She is, was, devoted to me, and I her. No it’s you, you’re playing mind games with me. You’ve been working with Number Two all along. I can’t trust you any more than I can him” 55 said accusingly.

    “You may well be right. But perhaps your wife found a way out of The Village, in exchange for you!” was Number 6’s suggestion “after all you are here and she isn’t.”
    Later that day Doctor Kern was walking the cliffs considering his position. He stopped, looked out to sea then uttered one word which drifted away on the breeze.


    The pair of steel doors opened and Number 6 brushed passed the bald-headed butler and down the ramp like so many times before to lean on the desk and face the man sitting in the chair, Number 2.

    I thought I said I was not to be disturbed!” barked Number 2.

    Doctor Leslie Kern!” barked Number 6 in return.

    “I know, it’s a tragedy?”

    “You pushed him too far. Together you and his wife drove the man to suicide, and besides which you made a mistake.”

    Number 2 looked at his visitor “What mistake, if you believe that cock and bull story about him being a mathematician.”

    Number 6 nodded in confirmation “His wife Doctor Lesley Kern is the geneticist. Her husband Doctor Leslie Kern was a mathematician.”


    “She assured me…..”
    “And you believed her! Doctor Lesley Kern geneticist, swapped identities with her husband and you got the wrong one. Made a deal with you did she, agreeing to give you her husband in exchange for her freedom. The car accident must have been a godsend. You faked her death and with her husband tucked up in hospital there wasn’t even the need for a funeral, just a fake grave!”

    Number 2 sat back in his chair hardly able to comprehend what had happened “Everything was carefully gone into and meticulously planned..

    “Well it’s a mistake anyone could have made I suppose, a simple administrative clerical error” Number 6 grinned with an air of self satisfaction.

    “Clerical error?” Number 2 demanded.

    Number 6 spelt it out to him “Doctor Lesley Kern, as in Lesley not Leslie, same first names, different spellings… as I say, a simple clerical error!”

    Get out, get out, get out!’ bellowed Number 2.


    Number 6 strolled up the ramp towards the already opening doors, leaving Number 2 ferreting under his desk for two files. He flipped the files open and examined the names therein. Number 6 paused, looked back for a moment, then passed through the open doors. Leaving Number 2 staring into space!

    The silver grey Alouette helicopter approached the village from the far side of the estuary, the pilot slowed the approach as he prepared to land on the triangular lawn by the sea wall. Grey floats touched down and the rotor blades began to slow and the Perspex cabin door was opened. An ambulance was standing, as were two medics who walked forward carrying a stretcher between them. An unconscious woman was lifted out of the helicopter and placed onto the stretcher and covered with a blanket. The woman stirred, she opened her eyes, there was a shadow across her. Focusing her eyes she saw.......
    “Welcome back to the Village Doctor Kern, we have been waiting for you” Number 2 told her.