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Tuesday 28 June 2022

The Prisoner An Exercise In Logistics Chapter 21


It’s Virtually Simon Pure

    Perhaps it was the rattling of the bottles in their milk crates as the milk float trundled down the cobbled mews that woke Silas Blake from his slumber. Blurry eyed he looked at the illuminated numerals of the alarm clock it was six o’clock. It was somewhat early for him, but this morning he had things to do before his holiday could begin. Throwing back the duvet, he climbed out of bed put on his burgundy dressing gown, and went through into the kitchen and switched on the kettle. Collecting his mug from the draining board, took a teaspoon of coffee from the jar, instant having to do this morning, and added two spoonful of sugar before retiring into the bathroom to shower and shave. Then back into the kitchen to pour hot water into his cup, in the refrigerator there was no milk. He went to the front door and opened it to find a bald headed man dressed in a long brown smock standing there.

    “Good old milko” said Blake upon opening the door. The milkman just for a moment, reminded him of……. then it was gone.

    “Good morning sir, don’t often see you up and about at this time of day” said the milkman.

    Blake dug his hands deep into the pockets of his dressing gown “Well I’ve never been woken up by your milk float before.”

    “Want your usual then guv?” asked the milkman with one bottle already in his hand.

    “Usual?” he asked “no, I’m going on holiday today.”
    “That’s nice for you gov, somewhere nice?”
    “Yes, I’m going fishing. Tell me, do you have a twin who is keen on horticulture?”

    The milkman looked at the man, and handed over the pint of milk and carton of orange juice “Why yes sir, he works at Kew gardens, one of the gardeners he is.”

    Blake thought that was probably it, except for the fact that he had never been to Kew!

    “Looks to be a fine day, but showers later, be seeing you.”

    Blake looked at the milkman and shivered as though someone had walked over his grave “Why did you say that?”

    “Say what sir?” asked the milkman.

    “Showers later and be seeing you.”
    “I dunno sir, just a turn of phrase that’s all” the milkman said and went on his way.

   There was a look of puzzlement on Blake’s face as if he were trying

 to remember something, but the memory just wouldn’t come. Perhaps it was just a touch of déjà vu that’s all. He stood on the doorstep watching the milk float trundle off along the cobbled mews. The dairy was “Wychwood Dairies,” he’d never heard of it! At the entrance to the mews the milk float then made a left hand turn and was gone. Now the mews was quiet and deserted once again, except for the love of his life, his grey 1957 MGA left-hand drive roadster with red upholstery was parked outside the pair of garage doors. He had bought the car in an auction, it had seen better days, but over time he and a friend who was a motor mechanic had managed to restore it to its former glory. The 1600cc engine produced a top speed of 97.8 miles per hour, and 0-60 in 16 seconds. Its license plate read MWN 64 and was a particular one which he had wanted because he had known a former owner. But the tracking down of the owner of the license plate had proved difficult, and hard bargaining followed before cash and license plates changed hand. Closing the door, he retired to the kitchen, re-boiled the kettle and poured milk on his cornflakes and poured a glass of orange juice. There was something...something in the back of his mind, the more he tried to remember the further the memory got away, so he let it go, and instead he finished his corn flakes, orange juice and second cup of coffee. Then went into the bedroom and dressed. Emerging from his bedroom dressed in a blue shirt and grey two piece suit he checked his wallet for cash, credit cards. His suitcase he packed the previous evening, along with his fishing tackle. Picking his car keys up off the coffee table he glanced at the desk, and then the pad on the desk, meeting with the Colonel in Hyde Park by the bandstand was all it said. Meeting with the Colonel in Hyde Park by the bandstand, now why had he written that? He had no memory of doing so, besides which, the Colonel knew that he was about to go on leave. What possible reason could he have for wanting to see him now? And so it was that whilst Blake was still churning this latest enigma over in his mind, together with any possible reason, that he opened the front door of his home and a white Mini-Moke with a candy striped canopy drove passed, the driver a young woman sounding a two tone horn. Then a man riding a tricycle and wearing a grey crash helmet waved to him as he rode by. A young woman came along the path pushing an older woman in a wheelchair. Curiously, the woman sitting in the wheelchair had a blue tinted visor over her face, something like a welding mask!


    “Good morning, lovely day Number Six, but showers later. Be seeing you” said Number 67 giving a curious salute with thumb and forefinger.

    He was taken aback suddenly but that was nothing however when compared to the sudden change of scenery. Gone was the Chelsea Mews to be replaced by a picturesque scene of gardens and candy coloured cottages, a green domed building, bell tower, trees and hedges, and a flower bed which was being attended by a bald headed gardener wearing dove grey overalls. And here he was , standing in  the road by the top of the bandstand! Then a white Mini-Moke pulled up.

    “Where to sir?” the driver asked.

    A sudden chill came over Blake, and in something of a cold sweat, staggered back into his house and slammed the door shut with a resounding bang. This was stupid, he was never one for hallucinations. All he had to do was open the door and outside was the cobbled mews, and his grey MGA roadster parked where it should be! Perhaps he had been working too hard, and the strain had been too much for him. That three day trip to The Village.......... It was probably just as well he was going away for a while, a holiday in the Highlands of Scotland seemed very welcoming right now.


    Blake placed the suitcase and fishing tackle in the boot of the roadster, closed the front door to his house and climbed in behind the wheel of his car. He inserted the key into the ignition and turned it, firing the engine into life and pressing his foot on the accelerator to rev the engine a couple of times, the roar of which resounded loudly within the confines of the Mews. Engaging first gear and releasing the clutch he drove his MGA forward to the entrance of the mews where he waited for a gap before merging into the London traffic. It was much improved these days by the introduction of the congestion charges. Having driven across London, Blake finally drove into the underground Hyde Park car park, and after parking his car walked along a dimly lit corridor in a purposeful manner.

    “Remarkable” remarked an over excited Number 2 as he watched Blake stride out purposefully along that corridor, upon the wall screen “I knew this idea of yours would work, it’s great.”

    Number 2, being a tall man, with a military gait, and greying hair, dressed in double breasted blazer, grey polo neck jersey, grey trousers and deck shoes. The doctor-Number 21 a middle aged woman with dark short hair dressed in a white operating gown, tried to err her superior onto the side of caution.

    “This drug has not been tested properly yet, we don’t know what side effects it might have.”

    “Do I detect an air of caution in your voice doctor?”

    The doctor thought for a moment before replying “This new drug

controls his mind and together through virtual reality equipment and a computer programme. We can place him within any given situation of our choosing, but at the end of the day I cannot guarantee just how he will react, he was supposed to be going on holiday. But now we have him going to meet with the Colonel.”

    “What exactly do you mean by that?” Number 2 asked watching as Blake now crossed the green grass of Hyde Park.

    The doctor wished she had not said anything now “The fact of the matter is, that anything can happen in the world of virtual reality as you saw for yourself in that sudden flashback.”

    “You mean after the milkman made his delivery, that wasn’t meant to happen?” Number 2 asked with a look of worry on his face.

    “It is possible that it was caused by the Village itself” returned the doctor, herself grasping for a reason for the flash back.


    “The Village, how so?” Number 2 demanded.

    “The Village is a powerful entity, and leaves a person with a deeply embedded impression upon the mind” the doctor explained.

    “Oh just get on with it” Number 2 snapped “and get it right, or by thunder I’ll see that the drug is……. well just get it right that’s all. By the time we’re finished with him he won’t know the difference between Adam and Simon Pure!”

    “Just as long as we do” muttered the doctor under her breath.

    The laboratory was filled with all manner of electrical equipment, monitors, life support and a large wall screen. At the far end was a rest area complete with easy chairs and a small kitchenette.
   Number 6 was busy walking along enjoying the morning sunshine with a smile on his face, when in truth he was fixed in a steel frame work which allowed him to walk, run, lie down, fall over, swim and generally take up any bodily position, but on the spot! He was no longer wearing his usual Village attire, but a black skin tight rubber suit with electrodes connected to various points of the suit. Electrodes transmit information from Number 6’s body back to the life sign monitors, and the computer. On his head the subject wears a black helmet with a tinted visor. The subject receives sounds and voices through in-built speakers in the helmet, and picture are projected via the tinted visor. Through the suit, bodily sensations of feeling, pain, pleasure, all via a virtual reality programme fed into the subject by the computer. A thick electrical cable connected to the back of the helmet provides the power to both suit and helmet. As Blake continued his walk across Regents Park, he did so while walking on the spot, turning his head from side to side and still smiling. It was strange for Number 2 to see Number 6 act in this way. Only his actions made any sense to him. But to Number 2 who was watching most carefully the actions made by Number 6 had seemed to him rather comical, even bizarre, and made him look to him as 
a rather stupid figure, one to be ridiculed. However with the computer feeding pictures into Number 6’s mind, which were also onto the wall screen, this way they could keep track of what Number 6 was doing at any given moment.

    Blake walked across Hyde Park enjoying the morning sunshine. The park was bustling with people walking their dogs, sitting in deckchairs, reading newspapers. A group of lads were playing football with jumpers for goal posts, women pushing their babies in three wheeled buggies. Yes, for many it was just another perfectly ordinary day. He approached the bandstand, he saw the Colonel amongst the audience listening to the band playing a selection of military music.

    “Sit down Blake” offered the Colonel looking up at the man now standing over him.

    Silas Blake looked at the vacant deckchair and sat down “What’s this all about Colonel, I’m on vacation or had you forgotten?”
    The Colonel began to speak to Blake without actually turning 
to face him “I like to listen to brass band music, especially military music, it makes one feel patriotic.”


    “Do they play requests? If they do I’ll ask them to play the Galloping Major for you” Blake offered “now Colonel if you would care to tell me, what this is all about?”

    “I have a problem Blake, or rather we have a problem, it concerns the recent reconnaissance operation which you were involved in” the Colonel said still facing the bandstand and beginning to enjoy the music.

    “Problem Colonel. What kind of problem? You seemed pleased with how it all went at the time, my report accepted. There was no suggestion that there was any problem at the debriefings. So where’s

the problem now?” Blake asked with a sudden feeling of anxiety.

   “Oh yes I agree” said the Colonel “it was a job well done, in fact the Minister couldn’t have been more pleased with the results of the survey carried out at the installation. No, the problem lies with the missing photographs and the file.”

    “Photographs, I don’t know anything about any photographs. As for the file, I gave that up to Simmons back at North Foxley, you ask him about it” he told the Colonel in no uncertain terms.

    “Oh yes we did. But it’s not that file people are concerned about” the Colonel informed him still listening to the band and not facing Blake once.

    “No?” he said.

    “No, it’s the copy you made of the file, together with all those photographs, they want you to give them up” the Colonel told him.

    “I can’t do that Colonel, they are my insurance, for my own protection if you like.”

    “On the other hand, it could be your downfall Blake. Look I’ll be frank. The Minister came to me with full knowledge of what you had done........ just do yourself a favour Blake and turn them over to me. Then you can disappear in the highlands of Scotland or wherever it is you intend to go.”

    Blake thought and considered his options then “Seems to me that I lose either way. I hand over the file and photographs and I lose what little insurance they afford me. And because I know the location of The Village they cannot have me left hanging around, can they?”

    “Listen old chap I have to report back to the Minister after this meeting. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. Why not give them what they want.”

    “Is that a threat Colonel?” he felt that he probably was still holding an ace card.

    “How safe do you think you’ll be without protection? If you come over with the goodies I can offer you that protection, do you want it?” the Colonel asked facing Blake for the first time.

“How safe, how protected would I be if I simply handed it all over to you? I’m safe enough.”
    “You’ll be safe enough when you’re dead!”


    The brass band came to the end of its particular set, much to the applause of the audience. The band leader turned to take the applause and bowed looking directly at Blake, his colourful striped cape blowing in the breeze. He turned and took up his baton once more for the brass bands rendition of ‘The Galloping Major.’

    Number 6 rose out of his white seat, crossed the lawn, and climbed

up the stone steps in front of the stone façade of the bandstand with its many Ionic columns. Then along to a second set of steps, up towards the cobbled path ahead of which were another set of steps where he now stood at the roadside. A white Mini-Moke taxi with a black and white striped canopy drove slowly through the archway which straddled the road. The taxi was towing behind it a Red Cross trailer with a black canopy, behind which walked the citizens, still dressed in their colourful Village attire, but carrying open black umbrellas. As the funeral cortege drew by Number 6, the driver of the taxi brought the hearse to a stop and said from beneath the canopy “Room for one inside sir.”

    Number 6 saw the oak coffin lying in the trailer with one single wreath upon it, slowly lifted the lid to see the deceased lying inside was the Colonel...........Number 6 collapsed!

    “What’s gone wrong?” asked Number 2, in a voice of panic looking at the blank wall screen.

    “He’s collapsed” exclaimed the doctor rushing forward, stethoscope in hand, towards the slumped body of Number 6.

    “Why?” Number 2 asked with great concern, for himself if not for Number 6.

    “I don’t know. Help get his helmet off” the doctor ordered busy disconnecting the leads.

    “Is he still alive?” Number 2 asked, unable to comprehend what was happening.

    Number 6’s unconscious body was lying on an operating table, oxygen was being administered. The doctor checked the patient’s heartbeat. Number 2 had been restless all through the medical examination, pacing up and down glancing now and then at the over large red curved telephone, half expecting it to begin bleeping at any moment. The doctor turned to face Number 2, removing her stethoscope
   “He’s alright but he must rest.”

   Number 2 staggered forward with an anxious look on his face “Will he be able to go on?”

   “Yes, but he must rest for several hours so that he can adjust. These Village flash backs are most disturbing!” the doctor said thoughtfully.

    Number 2 glancing again at the large red curved telephone “I don’t have much time, we must press on.”

    “The drug is very strong, it would be too much of a risk to carry on pushing him, he must rest” the doctor said pouring out a glass of water from the carafe.


    “What are you going to do about these memories of The Village? Can’t you erase them somehow?”

    “I told you that The Village is a very powerful entity, it leaves a powerful impression on the mind, it may be causing memory recall. On the other hand he could be using the flashbacks as a way of resistance. Putting them in as a block” the doctor suggested sipping the water “he looked in the coffin why should he do that?”

    “How should I know? You’re the doctor!” snapped Number 2.

    “It’s no good you taking your frustration out on me, who was the man lying in the coffin?”
    “The Colonel!” Number 2 told her “the Colonel came to The Village on one occasion, but there’s no record of his funeral, therefore there was no such funeral took place!”

    “Perhaps it is a case of wishful thinking” grinned the doctor.

    Number 2 was beside himself “What I want to know is, is this experiment worth going on with, will your technique work?”

    “I can offer you no guarantees, and only you can decide whether or not it’s worth going on with. However if you don’t, two things will have happened.”

    Number 2 looked startled as he looked at the doctor “And they are?”

    “One, you will never know, and two, you will have failed” the doctor told him.

    It was at that precise moment that the red over-sized curved telephone began to bleep somewhat impatiently, Number 2 crossed the laboratory and tentatively picked it up.

    “Number Two here……. yes sir I realise how important this is……… no sir the doctor was concerned for the patient……… I have full confidence in both the doctor and her drug………… yes I know but he is a very difficult subject, if I could only have a little more time………….. two days sir, thank you……….. I’ll stake my future on it………. I see, I already have” Number 2 put the telephone down as a man under pressure, and if anything strengthened his resolve it was that telephone call.

    “Let’s get on with it, and it had better work, otherwise…. Well just get it right!” Number 2 growled.
    “But he must be given time to rest” the doctor pleaded.
    “I cannot afford the time!”

    “I could give him a further injection of Myadroxine, that might preclude any future memory recall” the doctor suggested.

    “Just get on with it” Number 2 ordered “then we can get him back into the virtual reality contraption.”

    The doctor walked over to a work bench, and from a glass phial filled a syringe with the clear fluid then injected it into Number 6’s left upper arm. The patient was then fitted into the steel framework of the virtual reality machine, electrodes replaced as was the black helmet. The tinted visor providing the pictures fed to him, and two speakers within the helmet provided sound, and a microphone for his voice.


    The grey MGA roaster turned into the Chelsea Mews and stopped, there was the familiar dark shape of a the Colonel’s Bentley parked outside his home! Blake could have backed his car out of the mews and set off on his holiday as he had planned, but he didn’t. Instead he parked the MGA behind the Bentley, and at the door of his house inserted his key into the Yale lock. Turning it he pushed the door open, stepped over the threshold slamming the door behind him, announcing his arrival.

    “What happened to you Blake, why did you walk off like that?” asked the Colonel handing his empty whisky glass to the man Thorn who was with him.

    Thorn, a weasel looking type of character, sneaky, malicious and a thoroughly nasty piece of work, picked up a bottle of eighteen year old single malt whisky, and refilled the Colonel’s glass.

    “You can pour me one of those while you’re about it” Blake told him framed in the lounge doorway.

    Thorn took the replenished glass and handed it to the Colonel and shot him a quizzical look.

    “Better pour him one, after all, it is his whisky” the Colonel told him.

    “Don’t put yourself to any trouble Thorn. I’ll help myself” Blake said pouring himself a generous measure.

    “So what happened to you, where have you been?” asked the Colonel taking a long draught of the whisky.

    Thorn propped himself up by the fire place trying to look menacing.

    Blake took a drink from his glass “Nothing happened to me, I’ve been getting ready for my holiday in Scotland.”

    “At the bandstand in Hyde Park, you became distant. You simply got up and walked away. I called out to you but you ignored me, was that deliberate?” the Colonel asked looking into his glass at the golden liquid.

    “Well you’ve certainly made yourselves at home. Not drinking Thorn? That’s not like you at all!” Blake said with sneeringly.

    “He’s driving” the Colonel said “So what happened?”

    Blake drained his glass and poured himself another drink “I don’t know. Something came over me. Something suddenly came to mind, and then I was in some other place!”

    “In what other place?” Thorn asked coldly and detached.

    “I don’t remember” Blake answered.

    “Sounds all too vague for my liking, you do need a holiday!” the Colonel suggested.

    “I’m going on one if you will let me!” Blake said draining his glass.
    “What’s that supposed to mean?”
    “I’ve really no idea” Blake said.


   “Isn’t it time you handed them over?” Thorn asked.
    Blake looked at him “Why don’t you go and play with the traffic on the motor way?”
    “Hand them over and we’ll leave you alone. You’ll be free to go on your holiday, and then return to the department to take up your activities once more.”
    “The Village file!”
    “And the photographs, don’t forget the photographs” Thorn said “are they here, I could take the place apart.”
    “You could try” Blake said “if you want a broken nose!”
    “And if you want to go on working for the department!” the Colonel said.
    “I could resign.”
    “No you couldn’t, I wouldn’t let you!”
    “Because I know too much!”
    “I can give you protection.”
    “Protection from who?”
    “Perhaps from yourself!” was the Colonel’s reply “and as you know there are other departments within Military Intelligence who would love to gain the information in your possession. Certain people who would stop at nothing in getting what they want, and if you didn’t give it, they’d take it! They’d go to any lengths, and do unspeakable things to you to make you talk. Why not put yourself under my department’s protection?”
    “But I work for you and your department already, and that alone should afford it’s and your protection without having to ask for it.”
    “Yes, but you are not helping yourself!”

    Blake poured himself another single malt, after all he and the Colonel usually worked well together. The Colonel had often watched his back from behind that oak desk of his. But this time it was different, he had come out from behind that desk of his.

    “Twenty four work units” said Blake suddenly looking into his glass.

    “What?” asked the Colonel.

    “Twenty-four work units, that’s how much whisky costs in The Village” he said.

    “Oh yes, The Village, I think our friends last assignment took a little too much out of him, what do you think Thorn?” asked the Colonel holding his glass out for a refill.

    “I think you could be right sir” Thorn confirmed.

    “You must not let that place play on your mind my dear fellow. After all The Village is in ruins, isn’t that right Thorn?” the Colonel asked.

    “Quite right” Thorn replied “what’s more we have the photographs to prove it.”

    The Colonel sipped his single malt whisky “It is quite obvious that the possession of that copy of The Village file and photographs has

become a burden to you, it’s playing on your mind.”


    “Someone’s playing on it, and that’s for sure! If I give you what you want that will leave me with precisely nothing, and then where would I be?” Blake asked.
    “Working for me in a nice comfortable office job, my dear chap, all I want is to see you out of harm’s way.”

    “Colonel, I have some very clear memories of The Village, very clear memories, they are not due to the possession of any file or photographs neither is it in a state of ruin!. The Village exists today as it existed back in the nineteen-sixties and probably long before that for all I know!” cried Number 6 as he started to claw at his head.

    “He’s having some kind of fit” Thorn said.

    The Colonel stood back watching Number 6 clawing at his head, he shot Thorn a look. And there was a look of fear on Number 2’s face as he looked at the doctor, as Number 6 clawed frantically at the helmet he wore. The straps were torn away and he pulled the helmet off dropping it on the floor. He pulled the cables from the full body suit he wore.....then suddenly jumped up off the curved desk he had perched himself upon. He was in something of a panic. His heart was pounding, his pulse racing and sweat covered his brow.

    “Whatever is the matter with you Number Six, someone walked over your grave or something? Or have you simply woken up?” Number 2 asked him from the comfort of his black spherical chair.

    “I, I err” was all Number 6 could manage to say. He was unsure of his surroundings, for a moment he thought........

    “I do believe you haven’t heard one single word I have said for the past twenty minutes, what is the matter with you this morning, it’s not like you to day dream. I don’t know where you’ve been but you certainly haven’t been here with me!” exclaimed Number 2.

    Number 6 looked about, running his fingers through his hair and over his face “I err I don’t know, where’s the Colonel, and that weasel Thorn gone?”

    “The Colonel...the Colonel’s not here. No-one has been here except you and I, you had better pull yourself together you’re all woolly minded, or the doctor will have you sectioned onto the psychiatric wing of the hospital!” Number 2 told him.

    “Perhaps I’ve been over doing it” muttered Number 6.
    Number 2 rose up out of his chair and poured a glass of water from the carafe on his desk offering it to Number 6 “You’ve never over done anything while I’ve been about!”

    Number 6 sipped the water “Sorry, I’m sorry” he said with no idea why or what he was sorry for. But he did look pale and drawn, and not quite the thing at all.

    “You need to rest we can take this matter up later. Go home and I’ll have a doctor look in on you.” Number 2 suggested taking the glass from Number 6’s trembling hand.

    Number 6 looked at Number 2 something at the back of his mind

 told him something “I have a doctor of choice” he told Number 2.


    There was a startled expression on Number 2’s face as he watched Number 6 cross the floor, walk up the ramp and out through the now open steel doors, and he could not help but wonder.......

    In the laboratory Number 2 and the doctor watched Number 2 sit back in his chair as the wall screen dimmed and finally went dark. Number 6 meanwhile in his virtual world was still walking along on the spot within the steel frame work.

    “What just happened?” Number 2 asked having expected more of himself.

    “He knew” said the doctor knowing herself that the game was almost up.

    “He certainly knew you!” Number 2 said accusingly.

    “He tore off his helmet, you saw that, and he saw us, if only for a second” retorted the doctor who was fighting to keep herself calm.

    “But that was long enough wasn’t it?”

    The doctor walked over to the steel frame holding the still walking figure of Number 6 “You are to blame just as much as I am, we must give him time to rest, we could do his mind permanent damage or...”
    “Or what?” Number 2 wanted to know.
    “We could blow the whole programme from which he’ll walk away, and we will have learned nothing. We dare not push him further” the doctor told him.

    “Have we lost control?”
    The doctor thought for a moment “I wouldn’t go that far.”

    “But we saw him remove the virtual reality helmet, we saw him do it, and pull the cables from the suit.”

    “Yes we did, but in our world or his virtual one?” the doctor pondered “and yet there he stands, all connected up, walking along, probably enjoying a stroll through The Village.”

    “What do you mean?” Number 2 asked glancing over to the red telephone and expecting it to bleep at any moment.

    “What we see on the screen is what is taking place in both Number Six’s subconscious and the virtual world we have created for him” the doctor explained.

    “He was struggling with his helmet in the frame” Number 2 confirmed.

    “Yes, but we should not have seen him remove it on the screen. If he had done, he would be standing there in the frame with the helmet at his feet and the programme would be over” the doctor replied.

    Number 2 had the look of sudden enlightenment and a smile slowly crossed his lips “Then it didn’t really happen!”

    “But it could have been a sign of resistance. At the very least he

somehow knew my number and put you well and truly in the frame!” warned the doctor.

    “You are thinking of stopping the programme!”
    “We have no choice, we have so much to lose” the doctor said.
    “But so much to gain, I never thought that you would lose your 
scientific enthusiasm. We have no choice but to go on with the programme.”


    “Be it on your head” The doctor warned.
    “You need not remind me of that” Number 2 replied glancing over to the red telephone.
    “He may have become aware, be thankful that it was only in his virtual world. Here in the world of Simon Pure he failed to do so, and that puts us firmly back in control” the doctor told him, already busy feeding in another virtual reality programme via the Computer terminal.

    “Who is this Simon Pure when he’s at home?” Number 2 asked suddenly.

    The doctor gave Number 2 a sideways glance “Where do they get them?” she muttered under her breath.

    “What did you say?”

    “Number Six is on his way through The Village, probably on his way back to his cottage” said the doctor not taking her eyes off the screen.

    “This is all fine and dandy but can’t you get him back to London? What I’m after is in London and I need him to get it for me. Or to show me where it is at the very least” Number 2 said feeling the pressure upon him.

    “For some reason he wants to be here in The Village” observed the doctor watching the wall screen “perhaps what you want is here in The Village, possibly under your very nose!” she suggested.

    Number 2 was about to pooh-pooh the absurd idea but then “What if…..”

    Within the confines of his cottage ‘6 Private’ Number 6 was pacing up and down just as he was within the steel frame in the laboratory, there was plainly something on his mind. He was trying to figure something out, he’d been given a shock, or had it been a dream, and that was bothering him. Were the Colonel and Thorn behind it, or was it someone much closer to home? There was more pacing up and down when the ‘Things To Do’ pad on his desk caught his eye and the words ‘collect file and photographs.’  

    “So that’s their game is it?” thought Number 6 deliberately showing no reaction “well we can all play games.”

    He slowly and quite deliberately walked over to an alcove set in the wall with a painting of the Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. Releasing a catch the painting swung away from the wall on two hinges, revealing behind it a small wall safe.

    In the laboratory Number 2 and the doctor observed Number 6 as he turned the dial of the safe.
   “I had never considered the possibility, we must get the combination to that safe at all costs!’

    Number 6 turned the dial to the right four turns and stopped on the first number 2. Then turned the dial to the left passing the second number twice, stopping on the third time on the second number 4. Turning the dial to the right passing the third number once, stopping on the number 5, and then to the left to the fourth number 8, and the door opened, and he removed a green file and a large brown envelope. Upon the file was a plain label The Village.


    “That’s it, the result I have been waiting for, well done doctor. I didn’t think this idea of yours was going to work, but you pulled it off” shouted Number 2 in his excitement.
    The doctor urged caution, but Number 2 was in no state of mind to listen, and before you could say knife he was on his mobile phone sending his assistant Number 8 a text message.

    Number 8 was minding the fort in Number 2’s office when his mobile phone indicated a new text message, ‘6 private, wall safe behind painting of the fighting Temeraire, safe combination 2458’. Instantly he rushed up the ramp and out through the opening steel doors, and out of the Green Dome. Turning left he went through an archway then left behind a row of terraced cottages until he reach the door of ‘6 Private.’ The door opened automatically for him, he went through and into the lounge and finding the room deserted he wasted no time in going straight to the painting. He couldn’t find a catch, so he lifted the painting off the wall, there was no safe set in the smooth wall! He had a feeling Number 2 wasn’t going to like this!
    What!” bellowed Number 2 into his mobile phone “what do you mean there’s no wall safe?”
    “I’m standing here looking at a smooth wall, there is no wall safe.”
    “There has to be!”
    “Come and look for yourself sir if you don’t believe me” Number 8 challenged his superior.
    “I have already seen the safe, I’m looking at it now, it’s open and what’s more Number Six is sat on the couch reading a file and looking at photographs.”
    Number 8 turned and looked about the room, there was no sign of Number 6 “There’s no-one here but me sir.”
    “What do you mean he’s not there? I’m looking at him on the wall screen.”
    “Sir, can you see me on the wall screen?”
    Number 2’s jaw dropped and he stared at the doctor “No I can’t see you, because you’re not there. Well obviously you are. Look wait there I’m on my way.”

    Number 2 headed straight for the pair of steel doors, he turned to the doctor “Look after the patient I have to go out.”
    Standing still in the steel frame Number 6 was turning over imaginary pages of an imaginary file.

    “Will you be back?” the doctor asked.

    Number 2 looked at the figure of Number 6 “I don’t know, I’m not sure if I know anything anymore.”

    “Wait” the doctor said “this doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t go dashing off like that” but her words were already too late.


    The pair of steel doors closed behind him.

    Number 2 burst through the opening door of ‘6 Private’ where he found Number 8 sitting on the couch.

    “Well!” barked Number 2.

    Number 8 stood up “See for yourself sir, there is no one here but me, and there’s no wall safe, as you can see for yourself.”

    Number 2 did indeed look for himself, and was devastated by what he didn’t find. It took a moment or two for him to recover, but when he did he took his mobile phone out of his pocket and called The Department of Replication.

    “Department of Replication” said a voice at the other end “Number Eighty-two speaking.”

    “Number Two here” said the voice.

    Number 82 swallowed the bite of cheese and ham sandwich “Yes Number Two, how can I be of service?”

    “Six Private. When the cottage was structurally altered for its current occupant, was a wall safe included in those structural alterations?’ Number 2 asked trying to keep calm.

    “I can’t say off hand sir, I’ll have to check the schematics.”

    “Then perhaps you would be so kind as to put down that cheese and tomato sandwich, and look up the schematic for Six Private  on your Computer” the voice of Number 2 ordered.

    Number 82 sitting at his desk looked about his office, his cheese and ham sandwich still in his hand “Yes Number Two, at once.”

    It took Number 82 a moment or two to bring up the schematics for ‘6 Private’ on the computer, then studied the screen. He picked up his yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “I have the plans in front of me now sir, there was no inclusion of a wall safe.”

    “There’s not a wall safe set into the wall of the alcove behind the painting of the Fighting Temeraire in the plan of the cottage, you’re absolutely sure of that?” Number 2 asked, feeling the noose about his neck suddenly tighten.

    “Absolutely sure sir I can send you the plan in an email attachment if you like” 82 suggested.

    “No, I can see perfectly well for myself that there isn’t a wall safe!” returned Number 2 in a quiet tone of voice.

     “Well if you’re there in Six Private and can see for yourself, why go bothering me during my lunch break then?”
    The call was suddenly ended, 82’s words had gone unheard, which for him was probably just as well.

    Number 2 was about to go ballistic “There is a wall safe here someplace I know it. I’ll have this whole room stripped bare, the walls stripped down to their bare bricks if necessary!”

    “Don’t you think that a bit extreme? And whatever gave you the idea that there was a safe behind the picture in the first place?” asked Number 6 standing in the doorway of his cottage.


    “You did” answered Number 2 defiantly “What are you doing here?”

    I did?” Number 6 asked entering his cottage with a knowing smile on his face “as to what I’m doing here, I live here, remember?”

    “I saw you, and what’s more I have a doctor as my witness to you opening a safe hidden behind that painting. A safe from which you took the green Village file together with a large brown envelope.”

    “Well as you can see for yourself there is no wall safe, so how can there be a file and large brown envelope. Oh I see, you think I kept them in a safe” smiled Number 6 inspecting the alcove for himself “surely something you imagined!”

    You imagined!” bellowed Number 2 believing what he had seen with his own eyes.

    Number 8 turned to leave the cottage.
    “Wait Number Eight, don’t go” Number 2 ordered.

    “You come in here threatening to take my cottage apart right down to the bare bricks in order to find some imaginary safe, you must be round the twist!” Number 6 said “who the hell do you think you are?”

    “I am Number Two Chairman of The Village as well you know.”

    “You claim to be Number Two, you’re wearing his badge, and there is a look about you. What do you think Number Eight?” Number 6 said attempting to gain the upper hand.

    Number 8 remained silent, waiting to see how this game would play out.

    Number 2 could hardly believe it “You traitor!” he shrieked “traitor, traitor!”

    “I think Number Two should be brought in on this don’t you Number Eight” Number 6 suggested crossing over to the telephone.

    Number 8 remained silent and yet as Number 6 put through to Number 2 he thought to himself “This should be worth seeing.”

    As for Number 2 he was completely bemused by it all, and what’s more completely lost in what was no longer his plot.

   “Number Two…… its Number Six. I have a small problem, could you come over…… good, be seeing you” said Number 6 putting down the telephone “Number Two will be here directly.”

    “This is going to be interesting” Number 8 said “I wonder who is going to come walking through the door?”
    They wouldn’t have that long to wait.

    Number 2 glared at his assistant “I don’t want any more of your tricks Number Six, I’m Number Two, you know it, Number Eight here knows it and so do I. It’s you that isn’t here, because you’re back there in the …”

    The door of ‘6 Private’ opened automatically footsteps could be heard then a moment later standing framed in the doorway, the colour drained from Number 2’s face as he stood staring at himself!

    “Is this a private party, or can anyone join in?” asked Number 2 in that quiet manner of his.


    “Who the devil are you?” asked Number 2.

    “‘I ask the questions here. I don’t know who you are yet…… but I will. I can see your problem Number Six, very good of you to give me a call, guards if you would.”
   Number 2 was been accompanied by two guardians, who stepped forward into the room and took a struggling Number 2 under close protection.
    “You can’t do this to me, don’t you know who I am? I’m Number Two, Number Two, I am Number Two.” Just as he was being dragged out through the door it came to him “doctor if you can hear me, cancel the programme, cancel the programme that’s an order.”

    And with that the door to ‘6 private’ closed and Number 2 was gone.

    In the laboratory the doctor had heard Number 2’s order. She walked over to the computer and cancelled the virtual reality programme. She turned to Number 6 in the steel framework removing the virtual helmet and removed each of the electrodes attached to the suit. The pair of steel doors slid open and Number 2 staggered into the laboratory.

    “What have you done?” he barked loudly seeing the blank screen and monitors “you’ve shut the programme down, and he’s removed his helmet!”

    “I acted on your order” the doctor confirmed unbuckling the harness securing Number 6 within the steel frame work.

    “I gave no such order” said Number 2.

    “But I watched you, I saw you on the screen in Number Six’s cottage……..”

    “I haven’t been anywhere near Number Six’s cottage” began Number 2 rubbing his left arm “I was crossing the road towards the square when some damned fool came at me driving a taxi, I had to leap out of the road, and do you know, when I reported it to control they had the sheer audacity to tell me that no such incident had occurred!”

    “Well while you were away I reached a crisis…….” began the doctor

    “We reached that before I left!” growled Number 2.

    “So then you can understand how I came to act upon, what I thought after all, to be a direct order from you” said the doctor in her own defence.

    Number 6 stepped out of the steel framework.

    “He knew all along, he was playing with you!” exclaimed the doctor watching Number 6 walk towards them still dressed in his skin tight rubber suit.

    “What you were after is not here in The Village, but in another place where it will remain out of both our reaches” Number 6 said as he walked slowly towards the steel door.

    As the steel door opened, Number 6 turned and looked directly at Number 2 “You thought you could get to me through virtual reality. However, if one is to get involved one should be able to distinguish between that and the medium of Simon Pure, don’t you think?”


    The steel door slammed shut behind Number 6. In that instant the over large red curved telephone began to bleep impatiently. The

doctor quietly continued her clearing up of the laboratory as Number 2 slowly and reluctantly picked up the telephone.

    “Number Two here………..” his face now pale and drawn, his attitude was one of a broken man.


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