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Tuesday 17 May 2022

An Exercise In Logistics Chapter 15 or perhaps that should be "Episode"!


To Ride a Penny Farthing

    “Black coffee please” Number 6 asked the waitress, sitting at one of the tables outside the Café.

    A waitress in a black dress and white frilly apron disappeared into the Café, returning a few moments later carrying a brown cup and saucer, this with a sugar bowl upon a tray.

    “That will be two credit units if you please sir” said the waitress setting the things out on the table.

    “And if I don’t please?” teased Number 6.

    “It will still be two credit units sir” retorted the waitress.

    He smiled and taking his Admix card from the breast pocket of his blazer, handed it to the waitress for her to swipe.

    “You will be attending, or perhaps entering the race sir?” asked the waitress casually.

    “Race?” queried Number 6.

    “The Penny Farthing race, surely you’ve heard about it” smiled the waitress.

    “Me, ride a Penny Farthing, I don’t think so!”

    “Well then there’s always the Ball, I’ll be sure to save you a dance” the waitress told him, then turned to serve another customer.

    He sipped his coffee and picked up his copy of the latest issue of The Tally Ho reading the lead headline.

“Edwardiana” A Penny Farthing Race & Grande Ball

by our own reporter

    “An extraordinaire and spectacular event, A Penny Farthing race and Grand Ball in the evening for everyone to attend. The Penny Farthing race will commence and finish in The Village Square it will consist of one complete route of the village, taking in all roads and paths. There will be five competitors and the winner will receive a prize of 2, 000 free work units. In the evening curfew will be lifted, as there will be the Grand Ball to be held in the Town Hall, where there will be music and dancing throughout the evening. Help us turn back the clock by dressing in Edwardian costume. There will be fun and gaiety…by order.”

    “I bet” muttered Number 6 finishing his coffee. Standing up he left the café, and The Tally Ho on the table. Instead of a usual walk through the village he decided to take a casual stroll through the woods.

    It was no surprise for the Observer to see Number 6 walking the paths in the woods, he saluted one of the stone busts set on a column as he passed by. The paths were still wet under foot from the night’s rain and a rivulet of water ran into a large Water Lily filled lake. Drops of rain water dripped from leaves, the sun glistened through the canopy of trees and a mixture of damp undergrowth and aromatic plants filled the air. As he walked along the paths of the woods, it was quiet and peaceful. Only the song of birds or the occasional rustle in the undergrowth was to be heard, he thought himself to be anywhere, and indeed anywhere he could have been. But was anywhere more perfect than this at this moment?


    A young woman stood on the edge of the cliffs with her arms stretched out wide, tears running down her cheeks and was about to throw herself off to her death. Emerging from the woods he saw her and approached with caution, suddenly the woman spun round as Number 6 caught her by the arms and pulled her to the ground

    “What do you think you’re doing” the young woman screamed.

    Number 6 straddled the young woman’s stomach and pinned down her arms.

    “Are you going to get off me?” the young woman demanded.

    “I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty comfortable where I am for the moment, Number Eight” he said looking down at the Penny Farthing badge pinned to her blue and white striped top.

    The young woman kept up her struggle.

    “Now stop it, I’m stronger than you. But if you promise not to do anything stupid, in return I’ll let you up.”

    “Who are you? One of these so called do gooders who go around poking their nose into other people’s business no doubt!” sneered Number 8.

    “Just someone who stopped you from doing something you wouldn’t live to regret!” he told her releasing his hold and standing to his feet.

    Number 8 lay there for a moment, before finally offering him her hand, which she took and helped her to her feet.

    “Well I didn’t ask you to, did I?” she snapped and brushed down her orange slacks.

    “There’s gratitude for you. Well if that’s the way you feel, go ahead I promise not to stop you” he said taking a backward step.

    “Who are you?”

    “A prisoner, just like any other here.”

    “You’re not wearing a badge!”

    He looked at the ground around them “Perhaps it came off in the struggle, why do you want my number?”

    “I intend to report you to the authorities here for indecent assault at the earliest possible moment!” she told him.

    “They being?” questioned Number 6.

   “Don’t you know?” she asked straightening her long auburn hair.

   “I haven’t seen you before, you’re new here.”

    Number 8 stood facing him “I arrived here a we….I think it was, well it only seems to be…..”

    “You don’t seem at all sure.”

    “Well it’s difficult to say, but let us say a week.”


    “So relatively recent.”               


    “So how do you find The Village Number Eight?”

    “How do you think I find it?” she snapped back at him.

    “Perhaps this suicide attempt of yours was nothing more than a ruse by which you could befriend me, and gain my trust, perhaps even worm your way into my affections.”

    “My name is not Number Eight, it is Natalia Nowkowski” she snapped angrily “And I think you are over thinking the situation!”

    “So you were simply about to chuck yourself off the cliff!”

    “Why don’t you go away and bother someone else?”

    “You can’t help some people!” he said offering her his handkerchief.

    “Thank you” she said wiping her eyes.

    “You speak excellent English.”

    “It was part of my job, I am… was an interpreter” Natalia told him.

    “Why were you going to jump? Death is not the best way to take out of this place, it leads to mere oblivion.”

    “As far as I can see, it is the only way!”

    “Number Two will not be best pleased when she receives the report of your attempted suicide.”

    “It was hardly that!”

    “But the notion was there. There will be more questions and further interrogations, don’t rub her too much up the wrong way” he suggested.

    “And they will probably give you a medal!” Natalia snapped in return.

    He looked hurt and turned to go on his way.

    Natalia knew immediately her mistake and smiled kindly at him “I’m sorry, I should not have said that. You are really a kind man; I can see that much in your eyes, will you be my guardian angel?”

    Number 6 suddenly found himself warming to Natalia. Her smile lit up her whole face “I cannot promise to be that, all I can do is look out for you.”

    “Could you put a word in with Number Two for me?”

    “I’d like someone to put a good word in with Number Two for me, we hardly see eye to eye these days.”

    They walked along the cliffs back to the village.

    “Why are you here?” she asked.

    “That’s no longer important, I’m here that’s all.”

    “Tell me.”

    “For protection, I know too much you see.”

    “Why did you stop me?”

    “I don’t like to see a life just thrown away for no good cause” he said.

    They walked up the hill back into The Village.

    “Will you walk me home?” she asked.

    Together they walked through The Village, Bizet’s Farandole from the L’Arlesianne suite drifted on the air. Along the street fellow pedestrians greeted them as they passed by, they stepping to one side as two taxis passed them, and a cyclist riding a canopied bicycle passed by ringing his bell. Natalia led the way to her flat, ‘8 Private’ situated in front of or behind, depending on how you look at it, the fish pond. Hers being one of two flats in the yellow and white cottage. Mounting the wooden steps leading to the door of her flat Natalia turned.


   “Will I see you again?”

   “You probably won’t be able to avoid me, seeing as I’m here all the time!” quipped Number 6 with a smile.

    “Be seeing you” said Natalia with the respective salute “you see I am learning.”

    Number 6 smiled “Be seeing you.”

    On his way back to his cottage he happened to cross The Village green.

    “Enjoying yourself?” a voice asked suddenly.

    Number 6 looked about him.

    “Up here” the voice said.

    He looked up, on the edge of the stone parapet of the bandstand a woman sat looking down at him.

    “Come up, and we’ll talk.”

   He accepted the invitation.

    “Have you….. become involved Number Six?”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about. When have I become involved with anything here?”

    “Touched a soft spot did she, in that cold stone heart of yours?” Number 2 asked.

    Number 6 turned at last to face Number 2 “I don’t know what you


    “I might be well passed the first flush of youth Number 6, but I can still recognise the signs when I see them” Number 2 smiled.

   Number 2, a tall, slender, middle aged woman with blonde hair. She wore a navy blue turtle-neck jersey, grey slacks and a dark blazer with off-white piping. About her neck wound the old school scarf and the regular furled umbrella shooting stick. She had the look and attitude of a school ma’am about her.

    “You know something Number Six, you just might be the one person who could help me.”

    “What makes you think that?”

    “Number Eight.”


    “It was reported to me by an observer that Number Eight was on top of the cliffs when you grabbed her from behind and physically attacked her. What have you to say for yourself?”

    “I didn’t attack her.”

    “Why do you think a young woman like that would try to commit


    “Was it?” smirked Number 6.


    “Was it what?” returned Number 2.

    “An attempt to commit suicide?”

    “It was reported as such, YOU saved her!”

    “Looks can be very deceptive, perhaps she was simply attention seeking?”

    “Whose attention?”

    “Mine for example, or those who were watching.”

    “She didn’t give you any indication as to why she would want to commit suicide?”

    “Perhaps she was driven to it!” said Number 6 accusingly.

    “By me you mean.”     

    “Well you do have your reputation to maintain, she is a relative new arrival here, why was she brought here?”

    Number 2 looked at the man standing before her “You care Number Six, you care about the girl and after so short a time.”

    Number 6 went on the defensive “She’s frightened that’s all and shouldn’t even be here.”

    “Perhaps you are right, and yet here she is, and here she will remain.”

    “I’m sure you’ve shown her nothing but kindness since her arrival here!” he said sarcastically.

    “Would you do me the very great favour of keeping an eye on her for me?” asked Number 2, feigning sincerity.

    “I don’t do favours, but if I did what is there in it for me?”

    “She is young and very pretty, it would not be an unattractive assignment the perks of which speak for themselves I would have thought. And even if you feel nothing towards her, then perhaps out of a sense of responsibility” Number 2 suggested with a wry smile.

    “Responsibility? Why should I be responsible for her?”

    “In some countries, if you save a person’s life, that life then belongs to you. And you wouldn’t want anything to happen to Number Eight would you?”

    “I’ll think about, I’ll make you no promises but I will think about it” he told her.

    “Excellent, I know you won’t let me down or Number Eight for that matter” smiled Number 2.

    “Then you know me better than I!” quipped Number 6 making to take his leave.

    “You should take her to the Grande Ball, she would make an excellent partner for you and you would make a lovely couple” smiled Number 2 feeling pleased with herself.

    “Don’t tell me you’ve started a dating agency!”

    “You have received your invitation?”

    “The post hadn’t arrived by the time I went out this morning” grinned Number 6.

    “By the afternoon delivery then. Oh by the way had you intended to enter the Penny Farthing race, you should you know and there’s still time” Number 2 offered.


“Me, ride a Penny Farthing bicycle, I don’t think so. What do you want me to do, kill myself?”                 

    “It’s not that difficult, not when you’ve got the knack. It’s just like

falling off a log really!”

    “Yes that’s what I’m afraid of. Think I’ll pass.”

    “You could be making a mistake Number Six.”

   “I think I may have already made one. Be seeing you.”

    In ‘6 Private’ a maid was busy dusting and tidying up to the music of Monteverdi. The door opened and Number 6 entered whistling a tune.

    “What’s this? Music while you work?”

    “It helps a dull job along. Don’t like washing up much do you?” smiled the maid.

    “You didn’t have to do it.”

    “If I didn’t who would?” she teased.

    “Me, at the end of the month, and I’ve never been much good with a duster!” he told her “what’s with the dress?”

    “It’s my costume for Edwardiana.”

    “Is she coming as well?”

    The maid did a twirl in her high neck, full length electric blue cotton and muslin dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves.     

     “How do you like my electric blue dress?”

     “I like it, it suits you.”

     “Aren’t you going to wear your costume?”

    “Funny, I thought I was, already dressed for the boating regatta!”

    “No silly, the costume which arrived this morning” replied the maid, curious to see what was in the three cardboard boxes.

    He turned his attention to the first box, removing its lid and lifting out the suit of clothes. A black frock coat and light grey trousers, a white winged collar shirt, a burgundy waistcoat, two bow ties, one black, the other white, along with a burgundy cravat, and a pair of black gloves, all this together with a gold pocket watch and fob. The hat box contained a grey top hat, which when perched on the top of his head, fitted perfectly. The third box contained a pair of black boots and silver topped walking stick.

    “My, my” said the maid with a warm smile “you’ll be the handsomest man at the ball.”

    “What am I supposed to do with all this?”

    “Why wear it to the Grande Ball silly” said the maid examining the fine suit of clothes “you will look quite the dandy!”

    “I haven’t had an invitation.”

    At that moment, just as though fate were taking a hand, the door to ‘6 Private’ opened and a rather stout Postman dressed in a grey polo necked sweater, black trousers and a Royal Mail peaked cap

stood there, framed in the doorway along with his Penny Farthing bicycle.

    “Sign your number here” asked the Postman, holding out his receipt book and cream envelope.


    Number 6 stepped forward and accepted the cream envelope “Ride that thing do you?”

    “No I just push it about for the fun of it!” returned the Postman “Look, are you going to sign your Number Six?”

    Number 6 closed the door in the postman’s face. However a few moments later he opened the door to see the postman with post bag and all, quite happily riding his Penny Farthing along the path.

    “Remarkable”’ he muttered closing the door, then opened the

cream envelope to find his invitation, which he placed upon the mantle piece.

This is to Cordially Invite

No 6

To Attend

The Grande Ball

    The maid was still going through the boxes of clothes “Shall I hang these up for you, or are you going to change into them now?

    “Why should I want to change into them now, the Ball isn’t while tomorrow evening” Number 6 reminded her.

    “Other citizens like me will all be wearing their costumes. You wouldn’t want to look out of place now would you?” smiled the maid, feeling the cloth of the coat.

    “Well I’m not you, and I wouldn’t want to look silly and out of place now would I?”

    The maid laid the frock coat over the back of a chair and walked towards the already opening door “You will if you are the only one out of costume!”

    “Then I will be the only individual there!” he shouted after the maid as she left.

    He carried his suit of clothes through into the bedroom where looking at them they began to grow upon him. He had to admit the clothes were both crisp and extremely smart, and so changing his clothes he went from Village prisoner to Edwardian dandy within a few minutes, checking the time by his gold pocket watch, five minutes past two then placed it in his waistcoat. He put on his grey top hat, picked up his silver topped cane and stepped out through the opening door of his cottage into the bright afternoon sunshine of the Edwardian period of The Village. Even the gardeners and painters dressed as Edwardian workingmen, in black or navy blue overalls and black hobnail boots. Citizens promenaded around, ladies in full length dresses, or blouses and ankle length tight skirts and wide brimmed hats decorated with either flowers or feathers, carrying pink or white parasols. While the gentlemen seen wearing three piece suits, frock coats, top hats. Or flannel trousers and piped, or striped blazers, and straw boaters. Of course there was always a representative of The

Village, straw boaters and yellow and black, blue and white striped blazers. Two gentlemen wore tweed jackets, with matching shooting caps and Plus fours, woollen socks and brown shoes as together they cycled passed Number 6, most expertly he thought, upon their Penny Farthings.


    “They are preparing for the race” said Number 48, dressed in a black and yellow striped blazer and straw boater.

   “Is that so” greeted Number 6, raising his grey top hat at the gentleman, then turned to continue his promenade of The Village, when just ahead of him a woman was waving at him in an attempt to attract his attention. It was Number 8, who closing her blue and white parasol, made her way down the street towards him.

    “My you do look quite the dandy” she told him.

    “And you quite the lady, radiant and charming” returned Number 6, tipping his top hat at her in greeting.

    Number 8 dressed in a full length tailored gown trimmed with silver braid and velvet collar and lapel, a high necked frilled blouse with blue choker, topped with a fetching hat, and carrying an ornate blue and white parasol.

    “Would you like to take a stroll?” asked Number 6, smiling at passers by as they bowed their heads in greeting.

    She moved to take his arm, which was not offered to her. So to hide her disappointment, she opened her parasol and walked along with Number 6 across the lawn and into the central piazza.

    “I have to admit that however charming this might all be, I do feel a little foolish” Number 8 remarked from beneath her parasol.

    “Oh I don’t know, makes a change from the usual Village attire and not at all out of place don’t you think?” returned Number 6.

    “If you say so. But what is it all in aid of, this Penny Farthing race and Grande Ball, that’s what I should like to know. And you, you seem to accept it all without a qualm!”

    “There is one thing which I have learnt since my arrival here it’s that you have to bend a little, or they will break you. I resist them at every given opportunity, but you will learn that twenty-four-seven resistance can equally wear you down.”

    “Next you’ll be telling me how easy it is to become used to something, to one’s new surroundings and daily routine, and before you know where you are, you eventually accept.”

    “Yes” he said lifting his hat in greeting to two fellow citizens.

    They walked through a narrow arch and into the street beyond and passed the café.

    “You like the clothes you’re wearing don’t you? No more than that, you actually fancy yourself dressed like that” she said teasing him.

    “The clothes maketh the man, and I thought I looked rather dashing” retorted a smiling Number 6, now offering his arm.

    Number 8 accepted his arm “It is the man who maketh the clothes, and you do look dashing and most handsome.”

    “Why thank you, you certainly look the part and quite attractive” he said finding himself looking into her eyes, but then over her shoulder. 


He suddenly grabbed her by her arms and pulled Number 8 to the side of the road, his arms round her waist he held her against him while other pedestrians jumped out of the way of the speeding Penny Farthing bicycle.

    “Thank you, you saved my life again” she said straightening her hat.

    “Hardly that” he said, his eyes following the man riding the Penny Farthing down the street.

    “Isn’t it amazing how people can ride those contraptions, and so fast.”

    “Yes and when the rider isn’t even peddling! Come on quick after him.”

    Number 8 couldn’t run so fast in her skirt and high heels, but followed as best she could while Number 6 sprinted down the road after the Penny Farthing and its rider. He had seen the Penny Farthing disappear along the trackway behind the Town Hall which leads up into the woods. He stopped and looked behind him to see Number 8 struggling to follow and waiting for her to catch up.

    “Hurry up or we will lose him.”

    “I’m not exactly dressed for the one hundred metre dash you know! Why so much fuss, it’s only a bicycle after all, they’re ten a penny in this Village” she said catching her breath.

    Together they followed the trackway up into the woods, passed two large lily filled ponds and a stone gazebo, the tyre tracks showing up well in the still wet sand and soil. Further on, the path branched off to the right or carried on straight ahead. As the tyre tracks veered to the right, so did they, taking the right fork which led into a denser part of the woods, and it is here that they came upon a strange phenomenon. Amongst the foliage and undergrowth there was shimmering, at first they could not make it out, but the tyre marks of the Penny Farthing lead straight towards it. As they drew closer they could make out the shape of a very cleverly camouflaged shed. So cleverly camouflaged in fact that it seemed not to be there at all, blending in so well with the surrounding foliage. Approaching with care Number 6 found the door and gently lifted the latch and pushed the door open.

    “Keep back” cried a white haired old man.

    Number 50 was something of an eccentric, who had been left alone to virtually do as he pleased. Getting on in age he still retained a sharp mind and a keen eye, he gave the air of being a professor or scientist or something of the kind. The inside of the shed at first glance, looked perfectly normal, just like any shed interior, but there was a strange constant electronic hum and a fair amount of wiring.

    “Take it easy old timer, we’re not here to hurt you” Number 6 assured him.

    “What are you doing here, what do you want?” the old man demanded, desperately trying to conceal his latest project by standing in front of it.

    Number 6 removed his top hat and looked around at what he could only describe as some kind of Aladdin’s cave, filled with all kinds of tools, materials, gadgets and devices, electrical wiring and flashing lights. And all within the confines of the ten feet by eight feet shed.


    “We don’t want anything. What are you up to old timer, what have you there and what’s that humming sound?”

    “Its nothing, nothing at all” answered Number 50, feebly trying to hide his machine.

    “Doesn’t look nothing to me” said Number 6, looking over the bicycle.

    The Penny Farthing was leant up against a work bench, but this one was no ordinary Bicycle, it had slight modifications.

    “This looks very clever and quite ingenious” said Number 6.

    “I don’t remember asking for your opinion, now go away and leave me alone” cried the old man, taking a spanner to make a few minor adjustments.

    “What are you going to do with it?” Number 8 asked.

    “Do with it, do with it? I would have thought that perfectly obvious to anyone with the merest intelligence. I am going to ride this in the race.”

    “Why the stabilisers?” Number 6 asked, watching the old man at his work.

    There were a pair of stabilising wheels, one either side of the farthing wheel.

    “They aid for better cornering” answered Number 50.

    “In The Village you raced by free wheeling!”

    Number 50 looked up from his work “Young man I was not freewheeling, I had engaged the electric motor situated under the seat here. This in turn runs a drive belt from its spindle to the pedal shaft of the penny wheel.”

    “How do you control the speed?”

    “Via the throttle in the twist grip of the handle bars” answered the old man

    “And the power source?” Number 6 asked, getting closer to the machine.

    “Four power cells in the hollow frame, which recharge once you begin to peddle again. All the wiring runs down inside the frame work as well.”

    “Its very impressive work, wouldn’t you agree Number Eight?”


    “And you say you are going to ride this in the race” said Number 6.

    “And win it” returned number 50 with confidence.

    “Tell me, doesn’t this contraption of yours go outside the rules of the race, I mean with the modifications you have made?” asked number 8.

    “I knew it, you’re going to report me. After months of work, you are

going to report me. Look a Penny Farthing is still a Penny Farthing even with slight modifications” Number 50 argued, brandishing his spanner.


   “And Number Two allows you all this?”

    “I live like a hermit, I don’t bother them and they don’t come here bothering me, alright with you is it?” snapped Number 50.

    “Settle down old timer, no ones going to report you or disturb your way of life. What I want to know, is how fast can you go on this Penny Farthing of yours?” enquired a curious Number 6, who felt a cunning plan hatching.

    Having left Number 50 to make his minor adjustments and with the promise that the Penny Farthing would be ready in time for tomorrow’s race, Numbers 6 and 8 went back to the confines of The Village, calling at the ‘Tooty-Fruity’ ice cream kiosk.

    “The flavour of the day is raspberry” said 99 with a cheery smile.

     Number 6 bought two vanilla cones, each with a flake, much against 99’s sales drive on raspberry!

    “That will be four units if you please” the vendor said.

    Number 6 handed over his Admix card which 99 swiped and handed back, then he and Number 8 strolled quietly through the village, talking together as they went. Suddenly there came the sound something like Gregorian chant mixed with the sound of a bicycle pump, crossed with someone breathing through an aqua lung. Then it passed by, the amorphous white mass of the Guardian. Number 8 clung to Number 6’s arm, the citizens remaining perfectly still as it passed them by…. this time!

    “That thing it’s awful, what is it?” she asked.

    “Rover and believe me it’s a suffocating experience should you ever encounter it on a bad day” he told her.

    “What kind of bad day?” she asked

    “On the day you try to escape!”

    Number 2 was not yet in costume, yet Number 6 might argue the

point, seeing that she was in her regular Village costume.

    “Ah there you both are, where have you been keeping yourselves?”

    “Just giving Number Eight the guided tour” Number 6 told her.

    “My, my Number Six you do look a dandy, those clothes suit you. And you my dear, settling in at last I trust?’ asked Number 2 with a smile “you seem to be coming friends.”

    “You see too much for your own good!” snapped Number 6.

    “We can all be friends together, all it takes is a little cooperation on all sides” returned Number 2 as she leant on her umbrella shooting stick.

    “What you mean is that we do the cooperating and you do the taking, is that about the size of it?” asked Number 6 cynically.

    “What do you make of our friend Number Six?”

    “He has been very kind to me.”   

    “Perhaps, but be careful my dear, he is a dangerous man to know and quite untrustworthy” said Number 2 advisedly.

    At that moment a taxi pulled up and Number 2 climbed aboard “Sorry must go, I’ll be seeing you both tomorrow.”


    That evening just before curfew the maid as usual made him his nightly night cup of hot chocolate, but tonight after the maid had departed ‘6 Private’ he opened the cottage door and inserted his admix card between the lock and catch. This so that at curfew when the door is electronically locked, it will in fact be unlocked, now all he had to do was relax and wait.

    “Curfew time, five minutes to curfew, goodnight everyone, sleep well” said the cheery female voice. The lights went out, he switched on a small torch climbed off the couch and went to the cottage door and turned the handle and slowly opened it, the Admix card falling to the carpet. He allowed himself a smile “Clever aren’t you? Yes damned clever!” and picked up the card. Outside he placed the Admix card back between the lock and catch, this way he could regain entry, he had no intention of spending the night sleeping on the beach! As he made his way into the night he afforded himself a smile about this small victory over his captors, but was still wary of the fact that they would be watching. Under the cover of darkness he made his way through the Village, keeping to the shadows wherever there was light. At one point ducking into bushes as the Guardian rolled passed on its nightly patrol. The plan was to meet with Number 8 on the edge of the woods, if she was able to pull off the same trick as he that is.

    It was Number 174 who alerted the Supervisor of Number 6’s night manoeuvres.

    “Supervisor, Number Six breaking curfew, he’s now passing Hercules statue.”

    The Supervisor-Number 22, a tall, slight built woman in her mid thirties with dark hair turned her attention to the large wall screen “Put up camera twenty-three in night vision” she ordered.

    The large wall screen came to life displaying the night time scene of The Village in a green light upon the screen. The figure of Number 6 standing out as he slowly and tentatively made his way along in the darkness towards the pond, then cutting through a gap between two cottages and along the street beyond.

    “Put up camera ten” the Supervisor ordered.

    Camera ten displayed Number 6 approaching the edge of the

woods, where he crouched down to wait.

    “What’s he doing?” asked the Supervisor.

    “He’s crouching by those bushes” answered the Observer.

    “I can see that for myself, what’s he doing out there, if he plans to try and escape why doesn’t he just get on with it?”

    “I’ve no idea” the Observer replied.

    “Supervisor, Number Eight is not in her cottage” reports another Observer.

    “Blimey, it never rains but it pours. Keep looking for Number Eight and don’t lose Number Six” the Supervisor ordered.

    “Number Six is remaining where he is” reported the Observer.


    “Number Eight definitely not in her cottage” reported another.

    “Supervisor, Number Six moving off.”

    Watching the large screen the Supervisor observed Number 6 as he moved away from the edge of the woods towards the taxi rank and crouched down again.

    “Is he after one of the taxis do you think?” asked an Observer.

    “No I don’t” returned the Supervisor “I think he’s waiting for someone, Number Eight perhaps. Engage main screen to multi screen configuration both night vision and thermal imaging.”

    The wall screen instantly split into its multi screen configuration displaying a variety of areas of The Village and in various ranges of the spectrum. Number 8, dressed in a black tracksuit, finally arrived on the scene at the edge of the woods, but of Number 6 there was not a sign. Then a dark figure moving stealthily towards her, she shrank back into the darkness hoping that she was not seen, but then the figure disappeared. Moving forward she peered into the darkness to see where the figure had gone, when suddenly a hand was placed round her mouth and she was pulled backwards into the


    “Don’t struggle, they’re watching” Number 6 whispered in her ear.

     Number 8 nodded and Number 6 removed his hand.

    “Don’t do that!”

    “Do what?” asked Number 6.

    “Creep up on a person.”

    “Well just watch yourself, they’re watching” Number 6 informed her.

    ‘You mean they know we are out here. Then hadn’t we better get back?’ suggested Number 8 nervously.

    “Who dares wins!” retorted Number 6.

    “Supervisor. Two heat sources moving off along a path into the woods” reported an Observer, from his seat on the steel see saw.

    “Activate woodland cameras and don’t lose them, otherwise it will be the worse for all of you” were the encouraging words of the Supervisor.

    They moved stealthily through the undergrowth passed two large ponds and the stone Gazebo and to the point where the path forks to the right. Number 6 stopped and crouched down and peered into the darkness.

    “What’s the matter?” asked Number 8.

    “If they are using thermal imaging they will know precisely where we are, so from here on in we keep off the path” he whispered.

    “Where do you think they are making for?” asked an Observer sat upon the see saw as he swivelling past.
    “Seems a strange way to go if they are trying to escape” said the

Observer on the other end of the see saw, as he swivelled passed.

    “Yes it does, doesn’t it” replied the Supervisor watching the multi screens “I don’t think they are trying to escape at all.”
    A pair of thermal images appeared on one of the screens.

    “Gotcha! That’s them” exclaimed an excited Observer.


  “Well done” said the Supervisor

     Just ahead of them stood a stone bust set upon a stone column, the bust swivelling in their direction. They crouched down low, wondering what their next move would be… when suddenly in the Control Room.

    “What’s that?” asked the Supervisor.

    A sudden blinding flash of white light filled the screens of the Observers and that of the wall screen, for a few seconds only, but it was enough. Number 6 knew that the Control Room would be dazzled by the light from his torch, but only for a few seconds and there would be other cameras, so quickly grabbing Number 8’s hand he dragged her off through the undergrowth, therein to lose themselves to the prying eyes of the surveillance cameras.

    Recovering from the sudden dazzle of light the Observer reported “Number’s Six and Eight have gone!”

    “Scan” ordered the Supervisor.

    “Scanning” responded the Observer.

    “Put up cameras twenty-five, seven, twenty two, twenty-four, thirty, thirty-four, forty-one, and forty-six” ordered the Supervisor, wondering if at the same time she should alert Number 2.

    Number 6 and Number 8 moved with some difficulty through the undergrowth.

    “We’re nearly there” said Number 6, his eyes well accustomed to the dark.

    “Nearly where?” Number 8 asked almost stumbling over.

    And then there it was, the camouflaged shed belonging to Number 50. The tracks of the Penny Farthing could still be clearly seen leading up to the door.

    “What on earth are we doing here?”

    “Don’t keep asking damn fool questions, come on” said Number 6 leading the way.

    At the door of the shed he switched on the torch he had brought with him and handed it to Number 8.Then with a set of spark plug feeler gauges stolen from a tool box in one of the taxis, selecting the right one, he set to work picking the padlock securing the door.

    “Hold the torch steady.”

    Click, and the padlock opened, he took the torch and lifting the latch pushed the door open and stepped inside the shed, shining the torch as he went with Number 8 close at his heels.

    “What are you looking for? What are we doing here at this time of night?”

    Number 6 was rummaging in amongst the tools on the work bench and found a spanner and screw driver “Here shine the torch on the

Penny Farthing and don’t ask such fool questions” said Number 6 crouching beside the Penny Farthing bicycle.

    “What are you going to do?”

    “What did I just say about asking too many questions. Now shine that torch over here while I make one or two slight adjustments.”


    “Look at me” said Number 8 shining the torch over herself “I look as though I’ve been pulled through a hedge backwards!”

    “Well you have, haven’t you, now quit whining and shine that torch.”

    It was a warm sunny Village day, not even a slight breeze which made it a perfect day for the Penny Farthing race. Citizens paraded around in their various Edwardian costumes and the brass band played, everyone was out to enjoy the day, later to change into their evening dress in plenty of time for the Grande Ball.

    “Good afternoon, good afternoon everyone, you will be pleased to know that the spell of fine weather we have been enjoying will continue for the next few days. Would the contestants for the Penny Farthing race please assemble in the square in half an hour and report to the race marshals. I repeat contestants for the Penny Farthing race please assemble and report to the race marshals in the square in thirty minutes. May I remind you that curfew tonight is to be lifted for the Grande Ball to be held in the Town Hall. Thank you for your attention.”

    It was a confident Number 6 and a slightly anxious Number 8 who mingled amongst the citizens.

    “Relax” he told her.
    “What did you do to that Penny Farthing?”
    “Number Fifty wants to win the race, I just made a slight adjustment that’s all.”

    “If, as you say, they knew that we were abroad last night, why have they not come for us?”

    “I don’t know, but last night I think I found a way out.”
    “What...what did you find?”
    “Something in the shed hidden under the tarpaulin.”

    “What was it?”

    Across the lawn, up the steps, and through the pink porch and turned left up the cobbled path, through and archway into the cobbled square, Number 6 and Number 8 joined other citizens gathered in the cobbled square. From down the stones steps of the Green Dome the elegantly dressed Number 2, together with the butler accompanied by two Top Hat administrative officials appeared. The butler wore no costume, but his regular black tails and bowler hat, and carried an open black and white striped umbrella. Citizens mingled and chatted together in the square. As for Number 2, she was now dressed in a white wide brimmed hat decorated with silk flowers, awhite full length dress with leg of mutton sleeves, brown laced boots and carrying a furled white parasol. Number 6 offered his companion his arm and they casually met with Number 2 in the cobbled square.

    “Why Number Two, you look quite the lady” he said.

    “That is twice that you have accused me of that, but I take your compliment in good faith” smiled Number 2.


    “I see the butler’s back, where’s he been?
    “On holiday.”
    “Did he send the office a postcard?”
    “Yes a picturesque view of The Village from the beach. You didn’t think you would get away with it did you?
    “Get away with what?”

    “Your nocturnal manoeuvres last night were reported you know. Breaking curfew is against the rules, what were you up to?”
    “I wanted to see what a night here was like” he told her.
    “And you Number Eight, why have you involved yourself with this man?”
    Number 8 lowered her eyes then raised them again and stared wide-eyed at her superior.
    “You both went into the woods, looking for something....did you find it?
    “If I told you” he said.
    “You would know as much as me!”
    “Tell me my dear, did you find what you were looking for?
    Number 8 shook her head.
    “That’s right, tell her nothing!” he said.
    Number 2 did well to hide her disappointment.
    “I tell you what” Number 6 said.
    “Tell me what?”
    “Are you a gambolling woman?”
    “Only when the odds are stacked in my favour, what do you have in mind?”
    “I will select a rider in the race and the odds are four to one in your favour.
    Number 8 lowered her eyes again, then looked back at Number 2 eyes wide open. Number 2 smiled.
    Number 2 thought for a moment, she liked odds of four to one Alright Number Six I accept your wager. Nominate your rider.”
    Number 6 thought for a moment “I don’t know let me see....Number Thirty-seven the postman no he’s too stout. Number One-six-six…no perhaps not, then there’s numbers two-five-two, fifty and ninety-six. I don’t know” he feigned rubbing his chin “Number 96 perhaps… no Number Fifty, I’ll take him.”

   “Number Fifty, are you sure?
    “If you lose you will tell me what I want to know.”
    “Yes, but should I win.......”
    “You’ll leave me alone, and let Number Eight go!”

    A race marshal came over brandishing his computer slate and handed it to Number 2 who in turn handed it to Number 6 who then perused the list of five contestants, his eyes instantly drawn to that of Number 50. From down the street Number 6 could see the contestants riding their Penny Farthings towards the square.


    Number 8 shot Number 2 a knowing glance.

    “Are you sure? Number Ninety-six is much the younger man, stronger with stamina to spare I shouldn’t wonder” suggested Number 2 taking back the slate.

    “Yes but there is always the question of experience, I shall place my trust in Number fifty.”
    “Very well.”

    Number 2 walked off attracted by the attention of someone in the crowd.

    “Number Two seems very confident and with good reason. You have handed yourself together with me to her on a plate!”

    “Don’t worry it won’t come to that, and should you need protection, then I am sure someone will be on hand to do the honours!” returned Number 6 sarcastically.

    “Not you?” asked Number 8, shocked by his response.

    Number 6 shrugged his shoulders.

    Spectators mingled around the cyclists with their machines, the event being covered by a reporter and photographer for The Tally Ho interviewing the riders and photographs taken.

   “Good afternoon everyone good afternoon, the race is due to begin in five minutes, the contestants and their bicycles are ready, so would all spectators please take to their positions along the course. The race will be started by Number Two herself.”

    The five contestants all prepared themselves, dressed especially for the occasion in tweed shooting hat and tweed jacket and plus fours and deerstalkers, or straw boaters and striped blazers. As Verdi’s ‘March from Aida’ was played by the brass band the cyclists numbers paraded around the square pushing their Penny Farthings applauded by the spectators. Number 2 was pulled to one side by a race marshal who whispered something in her ear. Number 2 then beckoned Number 6 over to her.
    “I have some bad news for you.”
    “Yes what?”
    “Number Fifty is to be disqualified.”

    “For what reason?”

    “Because of the modifications my dear fellow, they are beyond the pale of specifications for regular Penny Farthings.”

    “But a Penny Farthing is a Penny Farthing” 6 protested.

    “Not when it’s fitted with an electric motor, drive belt and

accelerator, observe the stabilising wheels, they will help with

cornering, I’m afraid it means you have lost your bet, even before the race has started!”               
    “Hardly sporting is it!”
    “You tried to trick me Number Six. However, I’ll give you a sporting chance and allow Number Fifty to take part in the race as I want to
 see your face when the race is lost!”  



    Number 6 turned back to Number 8 but she had gone having disappeared into the crowd. The cyclists all lined up at the starting line and the butler held the red flag which he passed to Number 2. Holding the flag up in the air she brought it smartly down and the race was under way. Each cyclist pushing their Penny Farthings along, then with a foot on the mounting just above the farthing wheel, mounted their bicycles and peddled away as fast as they could go, down the road towards the sharp left hand corner at the bottom of the street. Number 50 had taken the lead and was the first into and round the corner, the Penny Farthing’s stabilisers making for better cornering. With the pack of four cyclists close behind, Number 50 passed the café and stopped peddling and engaged the electric motor and drive belt which locked the pedals automatically, and with a twist of handle bar grip the bicycle picked up speed, rather more than Number 50 had anticipated and was at the next bend before he knew it. The Penny Farthing cornered well as it whizzed passed the ice cream parlour, much to the cheers of the spectators. Number 50 released the throttle but it made no difference to the Penny Farthing’s speed, and the slope of the road passed the Town Hall would only help increase it, which was good, because it would help guarantee his winning the race, as after turning at the Old People’s Home the way back was up hill. Number 50 was not unduly worried, at the moment, he was in control of his speeding bicycle, and there was the brake. Besides he could always part company with his machine if needs be. He warmed to the cheers and applause of the spectators who lined the street and who were amazed by this old gentleman whizzing along on his Penny Farthing. Never in all his life had Number 50 been the centre of attention before, and so any thought of leaping off his ever quickening Penny Farthing was soon forgotten. Indeed he was ever confident of wining the race! Once passed the Town Hall there was a slight kink in the road and beyond that the road slopes down towards the Old People’s Home, and where the racers turned to continue the course back up into The Village itself. Passed the Town Hall and down the slope Number 50 rode his ever speeding Penny Farthing, much to the thrill of the spectators, applying gentle pressure to the brake brought little or no resistance and the whirring electric motor, from which smoke now issued, failed to disengage! As Number 50 reached the bottom of the slope he applied the hand brake, it failed! He tried desperately to topple the Penny Farthing over, much to the resistance of the stabilising wheels. Spectators dived out of the way as the Penny Farthing ploughed through them heading for the building of the old people’s home which Number 50 was successful in veering away from as spectators looked on. Across the lawn the Penny Farthing sped, narrowly missing tables and chairs not to mention two waiters who dropped their trays diving out of the way! It was an old man who saw the imminent danger, he turned the throttle of his mobility chair and steered it in the path of the now out of control Penny Farthing, this in order to make a block, but too late. Number 50 let out a cry as thePenny Farthing crashed into the low balustrade causing the bicycle and rider to part company. Number 50 flew over the balustrade, arms outstretched before falling to the quayside below. The spectators were both shocked and horrified by the accident, an ambulance and medics were called and a voice boomed out loudly over The Village public address system.


    “Emergency, emergency, emergency, emergency.”

    Within minutes a siren was heard, and taxi acting as an ambulance, towing behind it a Red Cross trailer was on the scene and two white coated medics attended the unconscious Number 50 lying on the stone slabs, it was too late. Number 50’s injuries had proved fatal. The race marshals stopped the race and herded away the spectators, who seemed to simply drift away from the scene of their own accord. Number 2 arrived on the scene as the Penny Farthing was taken being away by two mechanics.
    “What do you think happened?” she asked one mechanic.
    “Brake failure it seems, and the throttle has been rewired” the mechanic replied.
    “Let me have your full report as soon as possible.”
    “Yes Number Two.”
    Due to the death of Number 50 the Grande Ball was cancelled for that evening, and Number 6 was held in security until the following day when he was escorted to the Green Dome by four Guardians.

    “I am innocent, why should I wish to harm an old man like Number Fifty, ask Number 8, she knows’ barked Number 6, his voice echoing around the purpled walled Chamber.
    “Number Eight is no longer with us” Number 2 told him.
    “She’s gone?”
    “Gone, gone over the hills and far away.........tell me where the shed is.”
    “I don’t have a shed, ask a gardener.”
    “Don’t get smart with me. Number Fifty was a scientist, who in the past had carried out invaluable work for the Village. However he was something of an eccentric and when he retired refused to live in the Old People’s Home preferring to live in the woods as a hermit. Where is the shed?”

    “It might not be there now.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “It’s difficult to find at the best of times!”
    “YOU caused the death of Number Fifty by having made

adjustments to his Penny Farthing.”

    “I admit it, I did make one or two minor adjustments to the contraption, but not to cause harm, just to make sure Number Fifty won the race.”
    “The charge will be one of manslaughter!”
    “And the sentence?”

    Number 6 spent the next two days confined to his cottage, on the third day they came for him, three Guardians accompanied by Number 2.


    “What’s this, the escort for the condemned man?” quipped Number 6.

    “I do hope you are not going to make this difficult?” Number 2 said stepping over the threshold.

    “You expect me to go quietly, why should I make anything easy for you” he said clenching his fists ready for the fight to come.

    “Then I could dispense with the guards, you would save yourself from getting bruised and battered and this room would remain in one piece” Number 2 said leaning on her umbrella shooting stick.

    He thought for a moment and decided that discretion was the better part of valour and unclenching his fists nodded in agreement.

    Number 2 ordered the guards to wait outside “Now are you ready to talk?”

    “I can see that the odds were always stacked against me, never trust a woman” sneered Number 6.

    “You trusted Number Eight.”

    “And look where that got me.”

    “Number Eight has been re-assigned; I did tell you that she would not be with us long.”

    “What is going to happen to me now?”

    “The charge against you has been dropped, otherwise it would have meant your being rowed out across the estuary to the island, which for you would have been a one way trip, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”


    “It has been decided that you are to be given a second chance, and I advise you not to waste it.”

    “So it seems that someone here is protecting me. Am I supposed to be grateful, is that it, promising in return to be a good boy, pledging my allegiance to The Village, assimilate is that it?’

    Number 2 shrugged her shoulders “It is entirely up to you but it sounds like good to me. We don’t want to spoil you.”

    The door of the cottage opened and Number 2 dismissed the three security guards “Why not stroll with me a while Number Six, I’m sure you could do with a breath of fresh air after being cooped up for so long in solitary confinement.”

    Number 6 put on his piped blazer and walked to the door “No longer the condemned prisoner, I am a free man!”

    “And as such I thought you would appreciate the first day of the rest of your life in The Village” Number 2 grinned leading the way along the path.

    “Has it not occurred to you that you are just as much a prisoner as I am?”

    They stood on the balcony of the Green Dome.

    ‘Of course I’m not, I can come and go as I please because I’ve accepted The Village, as YOU will given time.”


    “And Number Eight?”
    “Oh there will be a new Number Eight to come along, just like you are the new Number Six.”
    “You think you will win?”
    “Let me say that the odds are heavily stacked in our favour!”

    At that precise moment a Penny Farthing emerged through the arch spanning the road. Number 6 stared down at the cyclist dressed in tweed jacket and plus fours, Number 50 raised his deer stalker hat to people in the square as he cycled passed.


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