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Thursday 29 September 2022

The Prisoner - A New No.2 - Chapter 8

 

Chapter 8

The Department of Works! 

    Administration, the Village doesn’t run itself it requires an administration, and no matter who is No.2, that administration is like the Civil Service it does not change. The administration serves both the Village and its community and treats each new No.2 with equal latitude and without question. Although the installation is a self-contained society there are items which have to be imported, the tinned Village food, the aspirins, brooms, pots and pans, crockery, and all manner of household goods. The milk, ice cream, and the potatoes come from a local farm and dairy. Sometimes there are special imports, like cameras, long playing records, and Cuckoo clocks. And the citizen’s welfare is catered for and administered by the welfare committee.
    “All we ask is for your complete confession” the top hatted Chairman of the welfare committee said.
   The Welfare committee was made up by eight members and the Chairman, all dressed in striped jerseys and black top hats.
    “My confession, you want to hear my confession…….are you the Spanish inquisition?”
    “Your flippancy and lack of cooperation will be marked against you” the Chairman informed the citizen.
    “And you think that worries me?”
    “I warn you Number Fifty-eight, everything you say is being recorded.”
    “And will be held against me!”
    “Gentlemen, this session will continue once this committee has had the opportunity to study the medical and psychological reports” the Chairman announced “until them I suggest you consider your position very carefully Number Fifty-eight.”
   Suddenly the lights went out, and after a couple of moments when the lights came on again…………..the committee had gone!

    Later that day there was a meeting of the Department of Works committee, made up by eight members and the Chairman, with everyone dressed in striped jerseys and black top hats.
    “Well I don’t see it” No.32 said
    “You have to admit the current sewage system of septic tanks is hardly desirable.” The Chairman said.
    “The system has served us well over the years” 213 said.
    “Yes” 221 agreed “but at the same time the last time the septic

tanks needed emptying the lorry was late.”
    “Yes” No.85 said “and the operation has to be carried out at night 
when everyone’s asleep.”

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    “Well we all know why that is” the Chairman said.
    “Yes so the citizens do not have to put up with the great stink all day long!” 179 said.
    “So what exactly is being proposed?” 181 asked.
    “No doubt to run a sewer pipe into the estuary and wash the waste away that way” No.85 said.
    “We can’t do that” No.221 said “Sometimes the tide goes out and doesn’t return for weeks on end.
    “Quite right that way is clearly impossible” the Chairman said.
    “Then what?” No.85 asked.
    “To dig a culvert under the woods and cliffs and quarter of a mile out to sea” explained the Chairman.
    “And who is going to dig this culvert?” No.181.
    “Don’t worry One-eight-one no-one will ask you to get your hands dirty!” the Chairman quipped.
    “There’s no way the Village can take advantage of mains sewage that much is obvious” 213 said “but what about building a sewage plant so we can treat the sewage ourselves.”
    “That comes at a cost” the Chairman said “not to mention bringing into question the possible compromise of the isolation of the Village.
    “They didn’t say that when the power station was built!” No.190 argued.
    No.120 who had yet to speak said “Well I think the simplest solution is the best.”
    “Agreed” No.85 said.
    “The culvert will have to go a long way out to sea” 32 said.
    “That has already been agreed” the Chairman announced.
    “Has it?”
    “And it must be clearly understood that the culvert must also have a downward slant to it, otherwise the waste will just sit there!”
    “That is clearly understood” the Chairman said.
    “Is it; are any of us an engineer?” No.32 asked.
    The committee fell silent.
    “Then I suggest we wait until we’ve read the engineering report” the Chairman offered.
    This was agreed and the meeting broke up just in time for their elevenses.

   No.2 was busy in his office dealing with paperwork appertaining to administrative details of the Village when the pair of steel doors opened and the butler entered bringing No.2 his elevenses.
    “I never realized there would be so much paperwork” No.2 remarked taking the offered cup and saucer. He glanced at the tea plate “biscuits….is there no cake?”
    The butler looked at his master with a blank expression.

    “No cake! Well if there isn’t there isn’t!” said No.2.
    The butler wheeled the tea trolley across the floor and up the ramp 
as the pair of steel doors opened and the tall figure of No.21 entered the office passing the butler on the way out, he approached the desk.

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    “I’d offer you a cup of tea Twenty-one but there’s only one cup.”
    “That’s alright sir, I’ve already had my elevenses at half past ten.”
    “Perhaps you’d care for a biscuit?” No.2 offered.
    No.21 glanced at the tea plate “Aren’t there any proper biscuits sir, the ones with the cream inside?”
    “Apparently not…..what have you got there Twenty-one, and why are you dressed like that?”
    “There is an administrative meeting this morning with the Board of Agriculture, and I am a Top Hat official of administration sir. You did read the memo?”
    “It’s probably buried in this mountain of paperwork!” No.2 replied. 
    “Well, I was asked to bring you your silk black top hat, black suit, coat, white shirt, black tie, and shoes sir.”
    “For me?”
    “Yes sir, after all you are the Chief Administrator, and so in that capacity you should attend the meeting.”
    “I see” No.2 said pouring out a second cup of tea “what is the meeting about?”
    “If you had read the memo sir…..”
    “Yes, but I didn’t!”
    “Well I don’t consider half a dozen files a mountain of paperwork!” 21 said in derisory fashion.
    “That’s as maybe” No.2 said “but I’ve never been one for paperwork, nor being perched behind a desk all day!”
    “Then we shall go out sir, and take a leisurely walk to the Town Hall, and get some fresh air…….once you’ve changed of course” 21 said with a smile.

    The morning atmosphere was clean, the air fresh after the night’s rain. Citizens went about their daily business, amusing themselves in whatever way they might. The Admiral was sailing plastic boats in the Free Sea, while gardeners attended to the flower borders, as people promenaded in the Piazza with colourfully striped umbrellas at the ready as the weather forecast was for further intermittent showers later in the day. The croquet players had their game postponed, due to the lawn being far too wet for play, so they retired to the café for coffee and cake.

    No.2 and No.21 left the Green Dome, making their way down the steps, a taxi suddenly pulled up, the driver poking her head out from under the orange and white striped canopy.

“Taxi sirs?”
    No.2 looked at the oriental taxi driver “No thank you, we’ll walk to the Town Hall it’s not far.”
    The taxi driver shrugged her shoulders and the white Mini-Moke drove down the road the driver sounding the two-tone horn warning pedestrians of the vehicle’s approach.
                                                          64


    No.2 crossed the road and stood at the top of a set of steps.
    “Not that way sir” 21 said.
    “But I can see the Town Hall from here” No.2 said.
    “Yes sir, so can I but trust me we don’t want to get there too soon” 21 said “if we walk this way, taking the scenic route so to speak we’ll get there just as soon as if we went that way.”
    “You mean it’s as broad as it is long!”
    “Quite so sir.”
    The two men in black walked adown the road, then left through an archway on the left, this took them down some steps and into the Piazza where citizens were promenading in the warm sunshine. Other Top Hat administrative officials were also making their way to the Town Hall, through a pair of large turquoise wrought iron gates, and across the road, walking up the three steps and into the imposing brick building of the Town Hall.

    No.21 and No.2 entered the foyer of the Town Hall, and joining others of their rank followed through a pair of oak doors, then through a pair of open steel doors, and along a maze of grey walled corridors which No.2 recognized from long ago, his encounter with the General! They passed a number frosted glass panelled doors, until they came to a pair of grey doors marked ‘board room.’ The doors slid open and No.’s 2 and 21 strode into the orange and purple walled chamber with purpose. Other Top Hat officials were already seated around a round baize topped table, which was made up of curved segmented tables. No.2 and 21 took their seats making up the ten members of the Board of Agriculture in total.
    No.2 leaned over to his left and whispered to No.21 “Who’s the Chairman of this board?”
    “You are sir” came the quiet reply.
    “I don’t know anything about agriculture.”
    “Don’t worry sir, you don’t need to.”
    No.2 looked over his shoulder. Steps led up to a dais upon which was a large grey chair. Its back rest rose up to a point, above which was an electronic blue eye. The wings of the chair were straight edged, pointed and angular. 
    No.2 leaned over to whisper to his assistant once more “As Chairman shouldn’t I be seated in that chair?”
    A member of the board heard what No.2 had said and scowled his disapproval.
    “No, you don’t sit in that chair sir” 21 advised his superior.
    “If I don’t, then who does?”

    “The Worshipful Master of course!”
    “Number One?”
    “You should bring the meeting to order” No.21 suggested.
    No.2 unzipped the black document case he had brought with him and took out the two sheets of paper it contained.
    “Gentlemen I bring this meeting to order……..cows” No.2 said having read the first short paragraph on the first sheet of paper.

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    “What about them?” one board member asked.
    “The milk yield has dropped” 21 said “I have spoken to the farmer who told me the reason is there has been an outbreak of lungworm, and is dealing with it.”
    “Chickens” No.2 said.
    “What about them sir?” 21 asked.
    “It says here that egg production has slowed” No.2 said, reading the second paragraph.
    “That’s not quite correct sir. The chickens have not slowed laying. It was decided by the Board for Agriculture who made the decision to go free range, which means with the chickens having been given free range, it takes much longer to find the eggs let alone collect them.” 21 said.
    “My egg this morning wasn’t free range” a member of the board muttered. 
    “What was that you said? No.2 asked.
    A board member cleared his throat “I was just saying the egg I had for breakfast this morning wasn’t free range.”
    “How do you know that?”
    “It had a little red lion stamped on it” came the reply.
    “That’s funny, so had mine” said another.
    This brought about a general discussion amongst the board as to the question of the lion.
    “It’s a British standard mark” No.2 said.
    “You mean the eggs had been brought into the Village?” asked a board member.
    “Yes” No.21 admitted.
    “So we know where the eggs came from, how did they get here………” No.2 asked.
    No.21 shot No.2 a glance of annoyance.
    “No doubt like the aspirin, potatoes and the ice cream………. at night when we’re all asleep!” No.2 said.
    No.21 shot No.2 a further disparaging glance.
    “Well I am Number Two, I should know…..shouldn’t I?”
    “We don’t ask” 21 said.
    “But someone must know” 2 said pressing the point.
    “This” a member said “is the Board of Agriculture, what has any of this to do with agriculture?”
    “Perhaps we should have convened this meeting in the barn on the farm” another joked.
    “Oh there is a farm then?” No.2 asked.

    “Of course, the herd of cows are grazing on the pasture next to the hospital” a member of the board said advisedly.
    No.2 thought for a moment before speaking again “So if we have a herd of cows providing milk, how does the milk get bottled. And the wheat, where does the wheat come from to make the bread?”
    No.21 rose from his chair “Gentlemen I think we can adjourn this 
meeting pending a further report from the veterinary surgeon on the state of his cows.”

66


    “Shouldn’t members of the Board visit the farm?” No.2 suggested.

    “I think its best left to the vet” 21 said “thank you gentlemen.”
    And with that the boardroom was cleared.

     No.2 and his assistant left the Town Hall and made their way through the Village towards the Green Dome.

    “Did you have to ask those questions?”

    “Did I have to ask those questions......... and yes I did if I am to have a proper understanding of how the Village works.”
    “The running of the farm is the Board of Agriculture’s responsibility” 21 said.

    “And the Board of Agriculture is responsible to…....”
    “As Chairman of the board…you Number Two.”
    “Well said Twenty-one, I want to visit the farm, where is it?”
    “It is here, is its all around you.”
    “You mean the Village is the farm?”
    “Yes, surrounded by pasture on three sides.”
    “I want to visit the farm.”
    “For what possible reason sir?”
    “I’m interested in chicken farming!” No.2 told his assistant.

    The next day No.21 took a Mini Moke and drove No.2 from the Village along a narrow track leading into the countryside. Eventually a farm building came into view.
    “Is that the farm?” No.2 asked.
    “Yes.”
    “And the farmer?”
    “He isn’t the most co-operative man.”
    “Why not?”
    “He’s under the misapprehension that his farm is independent of the Village.”
    “Really!”
    No.21 steered the Mini-Moke off the track towards the farm and parked in the farmyard and sounded the horn. The two of them stepped out of the vehicle and waited for the appearance of the farmer.
    “I take it there’s no arable on this farm?”
    “That’s right Number Two, cattle, sheep, chickens and a few pigs. The farmer also acts as the Village butcher” 21 explained sounding the taxis horn again.
    “What the devil’s that?”

No.21 looked to where No.2 was pointing.
    “That’s the farm run-a-bout.”

    “It’s a Village taxi.”
    “It used to be, there were five taxis originally.”

    “It’s covered in muck!”
    “Farm vehicles generally are” 21 told him.
    “And he’s had the two rear seats taken out!”

67


    “Yes, he uses the Mini-Moke as a farm runabout.”
    “And he’s allowed to get away with this, how did he get the vehicle in the first place?”
    “Apparently he walked into the Village one day, and drove out in the taxi.”
    “And they let him get away with it?”
    “He is the surliest fellow to have to deal with and we don’t like to upset him, he is a very good farmer.”
    A figure emerged from the farmhouse and trudged across the yard towards them. The farmer was of medium height, in his late 50’s with grey thinning hair. He wore an old tatty tweed jacket, torn trousers held up with string, and Wellington boots.
    “What do you want coming here like this, get off my land the both of you!” the farmer ordered.
    “Look here you don’t know who you are talking to…..”
    No.21 closed his eyes and shook his head
    “We’re from the Board of Agriculture” No.2 said.
    “What’s that to me, coming here blowing your horn.”
    “I’m sorry about that, my man here is sometime impulsive, he was being impulsive when he sounded our horn don’t you know.”
    “No! What’s more I don’t want to know, now get off my land!” the farmer insisted.
    “Are you married Number…….?”
    “Number…what am I to do with numbers, my names Thorpe.”
    “Mister Thorpe, and I take it this is Thorpe’s farm.”
    “Who’s else’s would it be, now if you don’t get off my land I’ll set dogs on you.”
    “As I said we’re from the Board of Agriculture…..”
    “No you’re not; you’re from that place at t’other end of the track!”
    “The village.”
    “If that’s what you call it” the farmer said, turning he called for his two dogs..…”Nero, Kaiser.”
    At that point two dogs began to bark.
    “Well it’s been a pleasure to make your acquaintance Mister Thorpe.”

    “I get the feeling we’ve outstayed our welcome Twenty-one.”
    “I couldn’t agree more sir.”
    Two large Alsatians came running, teeth bared.

    Quickly they jumped into the Mini-Moke and 21 drove as fast as he could out of the farmyard, out through the open gate back towards the track with the two large Alsatians giving chase.

    “You were right Twenty-one, Mr Thorpe is a very surly man!”

    “That’s why no-one has anything to do with him.”
    “But he’s a good farmer.”
    “Yes sir, he’s also our only farmer. But at least you know now where the milk, meat, potatoes, cauliflowers and cabbages come from!”

68


    “You know 21 I’m beginning to wish I’d never asked!”
    And with that the Mini-Moke drove off along the track back to the village.

69

Monday 26 September 2022

The Prisoner - A New No.2 - Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

The New No.6 

    There came a new arrival to the Village, he arrived by helicopter that afternoon, but he didn’t know anything about it, being unconscious at the time. He woke up in what he thought was the lounge of his home. Standing up he felt a little light-headed as he drew back the curtains to reveal a view of the Italianate Village!
   “I expect it reminds you of your first day, long ago, in the Village Number Two” 21 said smiling at the man sat in the black global chair.
    No.2 said nothing.
    On the wall screen the man dashed across the room, opened the door to the cottage and went outside.
    “What’s his number to be?” 21 asked.
    “Why do you ask?”
    “Just curious.”
    Outside the man looked about him, this way and that, across to wards the Piazza, through an archway to the cobbled square, and up at the bell tower.
    No.2 opened the file on his desk “Six, his number is Six.”
    “Is that why he has been put in the Roundhouse?”
    “He had to be put somewhere” No.2 said watching the wall screen.
    “It just seemed strange that’s all.”
    “What’s strange about it….just have a signpost placed outside his cottage door before he returns to it” No.2 ordered.
    “Yes Number Two, right away.”
    No.21 left the domed chamber leaving No.2 watching the screen, studying this new arrival.
    The prisoner crossed the lawn, climbed the step onto the Piazza. He was a man about 5 feet 10 inches tall, slight of build, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes. He had one distinguishing mark, a small scar on his left cheek left from when someone took a knife to him during a fight.

    At the café it was…… “Do you want breakfast?” the waitress asked busy opening the canopies of the tables on the patio.
    “Where is this?” the prisoner asked.
    “The Village.”
    “Yes, where is this?”
    “I’ll see if the tea is on the brew, do want tea?”
    “Can I use your phone?” he asked.

    “We don’t have one, but there’s a phone box round the corner” the waitress told him.
    Round the corner from the café he found the telephone booth.

51


There was a sign, for information lift and press. It was a curious ‘L’ shaped telephone, he picked it up and pressed a small square chrome button.
    “Number please” the operator asked.
    “I want to make a telephone call.”
    “What is your number sir?”
    The prisoner glanced at the phone “Number, there is no number” he told the operator.
    “No number then, no call!” the operator told the caller before hanging up.
    The phone went dead and he replaced it on the shelf of the booth. Walking away he crossed over to an electronic information board which he studied for a few moments until he heard the engine of a vehicle. A white Mini-Moke came driving passed, he stepped out and flagged the vehicle down which came to a stop with a squeal tyres.
    “You’ll get run over doing that” the driver told him.
    He looked at the young blonde woman in striped jersey and white sailors cap “Who are you? he asked.
    “I’m a taxi driver” the girl told him.
    Climbing into the front seat he told the driver to take him to the next town.
    “Oh we’re only the local service” she told him.
    “Well there must be a railway station somewhere nearby, take me there.”
    The Mini-Moke moved forward.
    “There’s no railway station sir.”
    The taxi driver took her passenger on a tour of the Village, along the road, this way and that, through arches, along cobbled lanes. Passed the café, the Town Hall, and down the hill towards the Old People’s Home, back up the hill, taking the left fork before the fire station, round passed the Pink Pavilion and the statue of Hercules, along a cobbled path, through an arch on the right and into the cobbled square where the taxi came to a stop.
    No.2 leaned out of his chair and switched off the wall screen, he had seen enough. The pair of steel doors slid open and the butler entered the office bringing his master his afternoon coffee.
    No.2 watched as the butler placed coffee pot, cup and saucer along with sugar bowl and milk jug on the desk.
    “We have seen it all in our time here haven’t we my diminutive friend, you more than me when it comes to it. We survived when others perished.”
    The butler looked at No.2 but said nothing, yet he remembered someone who had once upon a time been the best of them.

Returning to his cottage the prisoner noticed that a signpost

had been placed by the cottage door, it read ‘6 Private.’ Inside the cottage he stood in a replica of the lounge in his former home. There was the wring bureau, coffee table, two brown leather armchairs, the painting of the battle of Trafalgar hanging over the fireplace.

52


Ornaments, two table lamps, his small collection of porcelain figurines, books, the African wood carvings hanging on the walls, but the magazines in the Canterbury were not there. But where were the bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen? It was then that the back wall began to rise up into the roof space revealing a space beyond. He walked forward, to his left the kitchen, straight ahead, through an arch, the bedroom, and to the left the bathroom. There was an orange coloured Lava Lamp in a small alcove, in the wardrobe his suitcase, and a blue piped blazer hung on a coat hanger. In the kitchen the cupboard was filled with tinned Village food, baked beans, spaghetti, spam, corned beef, peas, oxtail soup, and in the refrigerator a bottle of milk, cheese, butter, and a role of luncheon meat. He turned his attention back to the lounge, he opened a drawer of the bureau and found a leatherbound map of what it called the Village. He unfolded the map, it was in colour. There was a black speaker set on a shelf, suddenly music issued forth, music designed to put the man at his ease, it didn’t, in fact as the music played on he found it annoying. He looked for an on-off switch, there wasn’t one.

    In his office No.2 wound the old college scarf about his neck and shoulders, picked up the umbrella shooting stick, the two symbols of his office and left the Green Dome, and on his way out told the butler he would be back soon.

   Down the steps, across the street, across the square and No.2 stood outside a once one time very familiar door to him, it opened automatically. Inside the cottage No.6 was about to hurl the speaker against a wall.
    “I can have that turned off for you if you like” No.2 said standing framed in the open doorway.
    No.6 put the speaker back on the shelf, the music stopped.
    “I told you so” No.2 said stepping over the threshold.
    And you are…….?” The prisoner asked aggressively.
    “I was interested to see what they had done to the place that’s all. This used to be my cottage once upon a time” No.2 told the prisoner.
    “In better days?”
    “In worse times, I was a prisoner like you” No.2 told him.
    “And now I take it you’re the jailer, and this is my cell!”
    “As cells go you must admit we’ve made you as comfortable as we can” No.2 said remembering “a home from home in fact.”
    “Answer me a question” the prisoner demanded.
    “If I can, but I can make no promises.”
    “Who are you?”
    “Number Two, and you are our Number Six” 2 said with a smile.

    “Number, I’m no number, my name is…..”
    No.2 held up a hand “I know your name, but names are not used here.”
    Why was I brought here?” No.6 demanded to know.
    “We shall come to that all in good time.”
    “You can’t hold me here!”

53


    “Oh I think I can” No.2 told him.
    “I want to leave!” No.6 told him.
    “The doors open, feel free” No.2 said gesturing towards the door.
    “And what do I walk into if I do?”
    “The Village, can I give you the grand tour?”

    “Don’t bother yourself, I’m not staying” the prisoner told him.
    “You may have to find out the hard way that there is no escape” No.2 told him “I shall leave you for now, to settle into your new surroundings.”
   A young woman in a black dress, white frilly apron, and sporting a white sailor’s cap appeared behind No.2.
   “Ah, here is your personal maid. Make our new friend here a cup of tea, I think he needs it.”
    The housemaid curtseyed. No.2 stepped aside to allow her entrance into the cottage.
    “I’ll let you settle in properly, we can talk tomorrow, when you’re feeling more adjusted to your new surroundings, and enjoy your tea” No.2 told him, leaving the cottage he made his way back to the Green Dome.
    “So you’re my personal maid."
    “Yes sir” the housemaid curtseyed.
    “Well you need not bother tomorrow, I can make my own tea” he told her. 
    “If you don’t mind my saying so, you don’t look the domestic type.”

    “How long have you been here?”
    “A couple of minutes.”
    “No, I didn’t mean that, I meant in this place.”
    “The Village?”
    “Yes” he said picking up the cup of tea given to him by the maid, and taking a sip or two.
    “For as long as I can remember.”
    “And your parents?”
    “They live in the Old People’s Home” she told him.
    He drank his tea, but before he could replace the cup in its saucer he keeled over, and fell unconscious on the floor.

    No.6 felt a little light-headed this morning. He didn’t remember going to bed last night, so it seemed reasonable enough to assume someone put him in it. He got up, showered, shaved, then went into the bedroom to dress. The only clothes he could find were the black piped blazer and beige trousers hanging up in the wardrobe, and the dark blue turtleneck jersey in a drawer. Of his own clothes there wasno sign. He heard the door of his cottage open. In the kitchen he found the housemaid putting a breakfast tray down on a worktop.

    “What you here again?” he said.
    “Of course, to bring you your breakfast” she said removing the tea towel “eggs, bacon, tea, toast, butter and marmalade.”

54


    “Where are my old clothes?” he wanted to know.
    “They won’t let you wear those, they’ll have taken them away” she told him.
    “Why?”
    “How should I know? No-one is permitted to wear their own clothes.”
    “What happened yesterday?” he wanted to know.
    “You passed out, probably the journey was too much for you.”
    “What did you put in the tea?”
    “Milk, sugar, two lumps” she said.
    What else?” he demanded.
    “Nothing!” the maid said with conviction.
    “And now you expect me to eat that?” he said.
    “It’s up to you” she replied setting the breakfast things out on the worktop.
    You eat it!”
    “I had my breakfast some time ago” she said picking up the tray.
    He grabbed the maid from behind, an arm round her waist, a hand to her throat.
    “They’re listening aren’t they?”
    Frightened the maid nodded her head.
    “Probably watching as well.”
    Again the maid nodded.
    “Well watch this” he said tightening his grip on the maid’s neck.
    Suddenly the door to his cottage burst open and three guardians entered the lounge, then into the kitchen.
    “Let the girl go” ordered 256.
    The prisoner shook his head.
    “This won’t get you anywhere you know, you don’t want to start with a black mark against you” 217 said.
    “Kill the girl” said 263 brandishing a white truncheon “and we’ll make sure it goes very hard on you.”
    “Where did you get that?” 256 asked.
    “I have a friend in security” 263 told him.
    “Why haven’t we got one?” 256 said.
    “Perhaps you don’t have a friend in security.”
    The housemaid glanced down at the worktop, she saw the knife and slowly reached a hand out……she felt the handle of the knife; she grasped it and stabbed the prisoner with it. The prisoner instantly released his grip on the girl who stumbled forward as the guardians moved in on No.6 and he felt the truncheon come down hard on his 
head.

    No.6 woke up to find himself in a bed in hospital. His head was bandaged, as was his right arm where he had been stabbed. He sat up to see he was the only patient on the ward. Pulling the sheets to one side he swung his legs out of bed.

55


    “What do you think you’re doing?” a man in a white coat asked.
    “I’m getting up” No.6 told the doctor.
    “I’ll tell you when you can get up” the doctor told him.
    Two male orderlies appeared on the ward, they approached the bed, held the patient down while a nurse produced a syringe from a kidney dish, and injected the patient with a sedative.
   The next thing the patient knew he was in a small room, and strapped in a chair. On the wall in front of him was a small screen, suddenly there was the image of a baby on the screen, a photograph. Further images followed, a boy at school, in uniform as a naval cadet, images of his career in the Navy as No.1, a first officer rising to Lieutenant Commander, and more.

    “We have your entire life, documented and pictured in depth” a voice said.
    The prisoner struggled against the restraints.
    “There’s no point in struggling” the voice said “or we shall be here all the longer!”
    “You can’t do this to me, and even if you do I’ll tell you nothing, do you hear…..nothing.”
    “Why did you resign?” the voice asked.
    “What?”
    “Why did you resign?”
    “Where’s the harm in chucking up a job?”
    “No harm at all, not for the ordinary man in the street, but you’re not ordinary, extraordinary would be a far better description.”
    “Where’s Number Two get Number Two, I want to talk to him!”
    “What about?”
    “To ask him why he gets other people to do his dirty work, can’t he stomach it himself?!”
    Images of his life flipped from one to the other on the screen.
    “Tell me why you resigned and this will stop….why did you resign?”
    “No!”
    “Why did you resign?” the voice was louder this time
    “No.”
    “Why did you resign?” louder.
    “No.”

    “Why did you resign?” louder still.
    “No.”
    “Why did you resign?” softer this time.
    “No.”
    “Why did you resign?” softer still.

    “No.”
    “Why not tell me?” the voice asked.
    “Because if I tell you that one thing, you’ll want to know all the rest!”
    “How old are you?”
    “You know.”

56


    “What is the time of your birth?”
    “You know that as well.”
    “Then where is the peril if you tell me?”
    “Am I in peril?”
    “There is always peril in the Village, but I could be a friend.”
    “How can a disembodied voice be a friend?”
    “Tell me what….is…the….time….of….your…birth?”
    “April seventh nineteen forty” the prisoner said.
    “There that wasn’t so bad was it?”
    “I expect you knew that anyway, so didn’t see the harm.”
    “How very perceptive of you, and you are right, we knew that anyway. So now why did you resign?”

    “He’s proving rather stubborn” the doctor reported “I could go much further of course.
    No.2 thought and considered for a moment “No, I don’t want his mind completely scrambled, otherwise we’ll never know…..shall we?”
    “No” the doctor had to admit.
    “Let him rest after his ordeal……”
    “And then repeat it” the doctor said enthusiastically.
    “……..No, have him taken back to his cottage. We’ll give him a little more time to readjust” was No.2’s decision putting down the telephone down.
    “We have to find out why he resigned prematurely” No.21 said.
    “Prematurely, meaning he was supposed to resign at some point?”

    No.6 was feeling restless, he found it difficult to settle, to clear his mind. Putting on his piped blazer he went out into the Village, he needed time to think. On the Village green people were playing croquet, others were out for a stroll. Suddenly the sound of a two-tone horn warned him to get out of the middle of the road, he stepped smartly to one side as a white Mini-Moke passed by. A man came down the road riding a tricycle, and holding up an open colourful striped umbrella.

    “Beautiful day” No.6 found himself saying.
    “Might get some rain later” the man replied as he cycled passed.
    The prisoner walked through an arch, down steps leading down towards the Piazza where citizens promenaded daily. There was a chap wheeling a Penny Farthing bicycle around, he paused to see if the man actually rode the bicycle, he didn’t. A signpost pointing to a pool of water puzzled him, “Free Sea” it read, there was an elderly 
gentleman sailing plastic boats in the Free Sea. While an old woman was being wheeled about in her wheel chair by a middle aged woman, a housemaid. The old woman sat wearing a tinted Perspex face visor! He continued on his walk and at the far end of the Piazza he looked up at the bell tower. The high ground he thought to himself, if you want to see all around go to the high ground. And so he walked down

57

 the steps, and across the green. Then up two or three steps and through another arch which led to a cobbled path, turning right there was a path to his left which wound round towards his cottage. There was a small turquoise gate, he opened it and took the path toward the bell tower, finding the door unlocked he climbed to the top. He looked out across the estuary, down upon his own cottage. A large building with a lawn in front gave the impression of being a hotel. In a triangular shaped swimming pool, he could see three girls in bikinis or swimsuits, two playing with a beach ball, the other sat in a small dingy on the water, but no-one actually swimming. Along the quayside was a…….a sailing vessel, a yacht or Ketch. Scrambling down the ladder as quickly as he could he left the bell tower behind, and made his way to a large pair of turquoise wrought iron gates, opposite the large imposing building, a signpost denoted the words Council Building. He turned left and walked down the road towards the building that looked like a hotel, although a signpost read “Old People’s Home.” Crossing the lawn he stood at a white balustrade and looked down at the smart looking Ketch moored to the quay, bunting and a black sail fluttering in the breeze.
    “She’s a trim craft, she’s good in any weather” a voice said.
    No.6 spun round to see an old man dressed in a red and black striped jersey and white naval cap setting up chessmen on a chequered board.
    “Are you the Captain?” he asked.
    “Admiral” the old man said.
    No.6 couldn’t see his cap badge for the numbered badge.
    “And you sail her?”
    “Sailed her many a time” the Admiral told him.
    No.6 stood at the balustrade studying the Ketch more closely, it was then that his hopes were dashed, for the sailing vessel was not merely moored to the quay, it was actually part of it! He turned his attention back to the Admiral.
    “Fancy a game?” the Admiral offered.
    No.6 sat down at the table opposite the Admiral.
    “Your move” the Admiral told him.

    No.2 sat in his office watching the wall screen, watching No.6 and the Admiral playing chess and remembering, he allowed himself a smile.
   “He looked disappointed” No.21 observed.
   “He thought he had found a way out, it’s no wonder he looked

disappointed” No.2 replied.
    “The Admiral is an old buffunga!”
    “He’s an eccentric, not an old fool. Psychologically sailing the Stone Boat is his way of escape, if only for a short time.”

   After one game of chess with the Admiral No.6 left the Old People’s

58


Home and walked up the hill back into the Village. A little way passed the Town Hall there was a Mini-Moke parked in the street. There were several passers-by so he approached the vehicle nonchalantly. 
    In the control room the supervisor stood watching the scene on the wall screen “I take it the driver left the key is in the ignition?”
    “Yes supervisor” his assistant reported with confidence.
    “The driver has left the canopy up” the supervisor commented.
    “Yes, but it shouldn’t make any difference I’d have thought” his assistant said.
    “No, perhaps not.”
    No.6 stood by the Mini-Moke, he saw the key in the ignition, he smiled at a passer-by who looked at him with suspicion. Then when it was clear he jumped into the vehicle, turned the ignition key and fired up the engine. Engaging first gear, and releasing the handbrake he drove the Mini-Moke down the hill while in the control room the supervisor continued to watch the wall screen and picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone.

    “He’s making a break for it Number Two.”

    At the bottom he turned left round the hairpin bend then brought the Moke to stop. The Allouete helicopter was hovering over the lawn by the sea wall, with No.2 at the controls. No.6 saw only one way to go, down the slipway and onto the beach. He gunned the engine and the Moke sped down the slipway and along the beach away from the Village while the helicopter gave chase. In the control room the supervisor, with the telephone still in his hand gave the order Orange Alert. Somewhere in the depths of the sea something stirred and a round sphere was released from the containment area and the amorphous shape of the Guardian rose up through the water until it broke through the surface, and skimmed over the waves towards the beach.
   In the helicopter No.2 picked up a microphone “You don’t want to do this, it has been tried before” the voice of No.2 said through the helicopters tannoy “turn back before it’s too late.”
    There was an expression of determination as No.6 pressed down hard on the accelerator and the Mini-Moke sped on towards……. Towards…… ahead of him was the white amorphous shape of the Guardian he drove straight towards it. At the last moment No.6 pulled hard on the steering wheel and the Moke swerved at the last moment to avoid impact. The Guardian roared in annoyance as the vehicle left the thing behind, but it did begin to give chase as the helicopter kept pace with the Mini-Moke.
    “You’ve upset it now” No.2 said though the tannoy.

    No.6 glanced up at the helicopter from under the canopy.
    “Alright you’ve given us a good run for your money” No.2 said “now stop and turn back to the Village.”
    The prisoner ignored the voice and drove on

    “Alright, have it your own way.”

59


    The helicopter veered away as No.2 gave up the chase, picking up the telephone again he gave the order “Activate the beam.”

    The top of the flagpole flipped open and a steel rod appeared, when fully extended it dropped at an angle and began to rotate.
    “Beam on sir” an operator reported.
    The supervisor gave the order to fire.
    Having reached the Outer Zone the engine of the Mini-Moke suddenly died and began to coast along the beach until finally coming to a stop. No.6 turned the ignition key but nothing happened. Then came the sound of a siren, he looked out of the rear window to see a second Mini-Moke speeding towards him. He stepped out of the vehicle and was about to take to his heels when he was confronted by the large white membrane mass of the Guardian. It roared and in one bound was on the prisoner who tried to land a couple of punches, but the Guardian knocked its prey to the ground, No.6 tried to get up but was overpowered as membrane covered his face suffocating him, and he fell to the ground unconscious. The Mini-Moke arrived on the scene, the Guardian stood by as two men in white coats got out and helped the patient into the Red Cross trailer of the ambulance.

    No.6 lay in bed and instantly recognised his surroundings; he was back on a ward in the hospital! Pulling back the sheets he swung his legs out of bed and tried to stand, his head spun, and he sat down on the bed again. A man in a white coat appeared at the far end of the ward.
    “What are you doing?” the doctor asked.
    “I’m attempting to get up, but I feel rather dizzy.”
    “Yes, I’m afraid the after effects can be rather unpleasant” the doctor explained.
    “I want to leave” No.6 told him.
    “Of course, but after a rest, and a medical.”
    “Medical?”
    “Yes, you wouldn’t expect me to allow you to leave without making sure you’re fit to be discharged” the doctor told him.
    “If I refuse?”
    “My dear chap, it’s for your own good, back into bed now.”
    A nurse appeared and helped the patient back into his bed.
    “What’s the matter with him?” No.6 asked looking towards the only other patient on the ward.
    The doctor glanced over to the patient a couple of beds along the ward, a patient whose head was completely wrapped in bandages “I think those bandages can come off later today.”

    The nurse stepped away from No.6’s bedside “Very good doctor” and went through the double doors at the end of the ward.

    Later that day the doctor returned to the ward, it was time for No.6’s medical examination, he was provided with a dressing gown and a pair of slippers. Then he was taken to the examination room where the doctor took a stethoscope and listened to his heartbeat.

60

    In his office No.2 watched the examination being carried out via the wall screen, he held a telephone in his hand and was making a report.
   “Yes, he’s having his medical now….well it pays to make sure you know.”
    With the medical complete the doctor pronounced his patient as being fit for any contingency.

    “Anything specific in mind doc?”
    “Go back to the ward, your clothes have been made ready” the doctor said “get dressed and you’ll be given a free ride home.”
   Back on the ward No.6 found his clothes laid out on the bed and he began to dress. A nurse appeared carrying a kidney dish and approached the bed of the patient on the opposite side of the ward, and began to slowly remove the bandages from round his head. Putting on his piped blazer No.6 checked the drawer of the bedside table, he removed his personal possessions, credit card, identity card, and health and welfare card placing all three in a blazer pocket, and put on wristwatch on. He was about to leave when he glanced over to see the face of his fellow patient……. The doctor appeared and examined the patients face.
    “Not a bad job, not a bad job at all” the doctor said “don’t look too closely and you’d hardly notice the scarring!”
    “Who is he?” No.6 asked.
    “See for yourself” the doctor told him.

    The taxi took No.6 home, but he didn’t go home, instead he paid a call at the Green Dome where the butler showed him into the office. No.2 sat behind his desk as the man entered, the pair of steel doors closing behind him.
    “And what can I do for you?” No.2 asked.
    “The man in the hospital……”
    “Which man in the hospital?”
    “The man with his head bandaged up, well he was until this morning.”
    “I wouldn’t worry about him if I were you; you’ve quite enough to worry about as it is. Now tell me why you resigned, and all this can end as of this moment.”

    No.6 thought and considered.
   The pair of steel doors opened and the figure of No.21 entered the chamber and walked smartly down the ramp.
    “Ah there you are Twenty-one, Number Six here was just about to tell me why he resigned.
    “Really sir, I’m all ears” 21 said taking up a position by the desk.
    “As are we all” No.2 said.
    “Its really quite simple, I resigned because………..” No.6 began “……….I’m exactly where they want me to be!” he said with a smile.
    The red ‘L’ shaped telephone began to bleep, No.2 picked it up.
    “Number Two here………”
                                                             61

Thursday 22 September 2022

A New No.2 - Chapter 6

 

Chapter 6

The Regatta 

    Some days it was……….
    “What’s the matter with him?” No.2 asked, looking at the patient lying on the bed “he appears to be in some discomfort.”
    “He’s in a state of fugue, he’s had a change of consciousness” the doctor began to explain “he is suffering from amnesia, induced of course using drugs and hypnotism.”
    “Why would you do that?
    “It’s an on-going operation” the doctor explained “we have removed all unpleasant memories of the Village, and soon we’ll be able to be put him back into circulation.”
    He will be able to leave the Village?” No.2 asked.
    “Of course, in order for him to accumulate information and bring it back to the Village for extraction” the doctor said.

    Other days it was………….    “Good morning, good morning and what a lovely day it is. The spell of fine weather is due to last at least another month” the cheery female voice announced “Before the programme of early morning music I have an announcement to make. Your local council, and remember it is your local council is to organize a Village regatta, if you wish to take part you must register your boat within the next two weeks. The regatta is to take place just five weeks from now.”

    In the office of the Green Dome both No.2 and No.21 listened to the announcement made over Village radio.
    “It might be a good idea for you to show your face at the Village regatta.” 21 suggested.

    No.2 looked at his assistant “Why should I want to do a thing like that?”
    “Well you are hardly a man of the people” No.21 began “what I mean is you haven’t shown yourself in public since your appointment.”
    “Why was I not informed about this regatta, am I not the Chief administrator?”
    “It was a committee decision I believe.”

    “Why was I not invited to sit on such a committee?” No.2 said sternly.
    “You are a busy man Number Two, you cannot be expected to oversee everything, that’s why I’m here to assist you sir” No.21 said smiling.
    “And you think I should attend this Village regatta?”
    “I think it would be good to show the citizens that you are a man of 
the people, if you wish to make the Village a better place.”

42


    “I expect security measures will be stepped up, during the regatta?”
    “Not really sir” No.21 replied “I don’t think such steps will be necessary.”
    No.2 was surprised about that “You don’t?”
    “No sir.”

    A smile crossed No.2’s lips as an idea came to him “It can’t do any harm my showing my face, I might even enter the regatta myself.”
    “I didn’t know you had a boat sir?”
    “I don’t, but I expect a resourceful chap like you could get me one!” 2 suggested
    “Nothing easier sir” No.2 replied “if you’re sure.”
    “Do I detect a tone of surprise in your voice Twenty-one?”
    “Oh no sir, it’s just that I had no idea you were interested in sailing pond yachts!”
    “Pond yachts!” No.2 said, unable to disguise the sound of disappointment in his voice.
    “Yes sir, they’ll be sailed on the free sea in the Piazza” who couldn’t help but detect that disappointment in his superior’s voice.

    When No.36 heard this morning’s announcement about the forthcoming regatta he was sat at a table on the patio of the café enjoying morning coffee. The announcement puzzled him, and turned to two chaps sat at another table, who had ‘Village Yachting Club’ on their light blue jerseys.

    “You look like two likely chaps to tell me about this regatta” No.36 said.

    No.213 and No.267 looked at each other “What do you want to know?”

    “You’re allowed boats?”

    “Why yes” 213 said.

    “Otherwise it wouldn’t be much of a regatta would it!” 267 said.

    “And you’re members of the Village yachting club?”

    “He’s sharp” 213 said.

    “You're thinking of joining the club?” 267 asked.

    “I might, if there’s a yacht I can borrow” No.36 said eagerly.

    “Haven’t you a yacht of your own?”

    “No, I didn’t know we were allowed them. That’s why I want to borrow one.”

    “Well I don’t know” 213 said rubbing his chin “the committee likes members to own their own yachts.”

    “That’s right” 267 said “particular about that the committee is, beside members don’t like to lend their yachts to people, not even to a fellow member of the club.”

    No.36 stood up and joined the two men at their table and drew near to them, so as not to be overheard.

    “Tell me, if you all have yachts, why don’t any of you try and escape? If I had a boat I wouldn’t hang about for longer than it took me to set sail!”

43


    Number’s 267 and 213 looked puzzled at each other.

    “If I had a yacht” No.36 told them “I could take part in the regatta, and when it was in full swing I could slip quietly away and make for the open sea.”

    No.267 and 213 shook their heads.

    “Well at least take me to your boathouse” No.36 pleaded.

    The penny dropped and No.267 and 213 realized 36’s mistake!

    “Well I suppose we could take you to the yachting club” 213 finally said.

    “Yachting club, well that’s more like it” said No.36 eagerly “say when shall it be?”

    It was then that they were joined by two more men sporting Village Yachting Club jerseys, they each carried something which made No.36’s heart sink.

    “Wh…..what are those?” No.36 asked in sudden realization of his mistake.

    “Pond yachts” No.59 said enthusiastically

    “Mine is called Northern Star” No.104 said.

    “And mine’s Southern Star” 59 said “Mine has the blue and white paint, and Northern Star has the green and white paint.”

    “You mean……you mean your yachting club sails pond yachts?”

    “That’s right” 267 said “we’ll be sailing our pond yachts in the Free Sea in the Piazza for the village regatta. It should prove very spectacular.”

    No.36 made his excuses and left the group with No.267 shouting after him about going to the yachting club.

    In the control room the supervisor-No.56, a bald-headed man wearing a dark green polo neck jersey and single breasted dark blue blazer stood with his assistant No.42 looking at No.36 pictured on the wall screen.

    “He looks disappointed” said the supervisor.

    “He has every right to be” 42 agreed.

    “As if we would permit the ownership of any kind of boat to ordinary citizens” said the supervisor.

    “Indeed to any citizen” No.42 said still watching the wall screen as No.9 made his way towards the Piazza.

    It was the blue and white striped awning of a kiosk that caught his attention, where a variety of pond yachts were for sale. No.9 paused and looked at the tidy vessels. Then No.66 the ex-Admiral caught his eye, he was sat on a bench with a fellow boating enthusiast, both wore white Naval caps.

    “Hello Admiral” No.36 said approaching the bench “not sailing today?”

    The ex-Admiral looked up, he held a small control box in his hands, a small aerial protruded from the box.

44


   “Well yes and no” he said “allow me to introduce you to my first officer Number One.”

   The first officer also held a control box and was concentrating very hard as he pressed a number of buttons. No.36 stood looking at the two men, then turned and looked towards the Free Sea, there was a yacht towards the farther end of the pool. Suddenly there was a minor explosion, a spout of water, the yacht keeled over and began to sink. He saw a man step into the water in order to retrieve the stricken yacht and began to study it. The ex-Admiral and his No.1 looked at each other, a final press on the two control boxes and two miniature submarines broke through the surface of the water and made their way to the side of the pool.

    “You, you pair did this” the owner of the stricken yacht shouted “you sank my yacht!”

    No.36 stood watching as the ex-Admiral and his first officer retrieved the two submarines from the Free Sea and made off with them in somewhat of a hurry, with the owner of the yacht shouting and shaking his fist.


    “So that’s where they sail their pond yachts” No.2 said looking at the wall screen.

    “That’ right sir, curious though that they should sink Eighty-one’s yacht like that” the supervisor said.

    “Curious indeed” said No.21 “that they should actually have working models of two submarines in the first place. I wonder how they came by them?”

    No.2 picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “Control room.”
    The yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone in the control room began to bleep.
    “Supervisor……”
    “I want you to put a watch on the ex-Admiral and his first officer.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    “I want to know where they go, and who they meet.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
    No.2 replaced the telephone on his desk, No.21 smiled quietly to himself.
    “What’s the matter with you?”
    “You’re smiling, that generally means something.”
    “I was just admiring how easily you have come to fit into your new role that’s all sir.”
   “Really?”
   “Yes sir, you’ve reached the point where you make instant decisions like that last one, and without even thinking about it!”

    Every day the wind was blowing, or there was a slight breeze, there would be members of the Village Yachting Club sailing their pond yachts in the Free Sea. No.9 had to admit it looked quite impressive. No.81 had purchased a new pond yacht called Northern Star, a white hulled yacht with green trim, from the kiosk. This was to replace the one that was sunk by the rogue submarine. He immediately carried the yacht over to the Free Sea, set her sails and jib and put her in the water. There was a gentle breeze which made it perfect for sailing. There were yachts of all kinds and sizes, and everyone was honing their sailing skills, getting the most out of their vessels. The promenaders were most interested in the activity, and many stopped to watch and admire the yachts. Then the ex-Admiral and his Flag officer appeared carrying a large ship, it was a model of a pocket battleship about three feet in length. The members of the yachting club all turned and stared.

45

    “That’s enough Admiral” No.199, secretary of the yachting club, said “this is a yachting club, that hardly constitutes a yacht.”

    “Tell me why a pocket battleship cannot take part in the regatta?”

    “It’s motorised and operated by remote control, just like that blasted submarine of yours which sank my yacht. How did you do that by the way?” 81 said lifting the Northern Star out of the water.

    There was a bit of an argument before the ex-Admiral and his first officer withdrew, carrying the battleship.

    “Where do you think the ex-Admiral is getting these superb models, they are complete in every detail” No. 2 asked watching the wall screen.

    No.21 stood in No.2’s office also watching the screen “I could find out for you sir, I’ll make the Admiral talk!”

    “No! We don’t want any strong arm stuff. The supervisor is watching the old sea dog, he’ll give himself away sooner or later.”

    “Are you going to attend the regatta sir?”

    “Of course, in order to show my face at the very least.”

   The day of the regatta arrived, and there was an air of excitement as spectators started to gather in the Piazza.  The brass band played “Sailing By” as the entrants in the regatta began to assemble by the Free Sea with their various pond yachts. No.220 was favoured by many to win this year’s regatta with his yacht the Amis Reunis. No.2, accompanied by his assistant No.21 left the Green Dome and made their way towards the Piazza.

    “This should make for a pleasant change Twenty-one” No.2 said as they walked across the lawn “a quiet afternoon off duty away from the office.”
    “We are never off duty sir” No.21 reminded his superior.
    “We can pretend to be off duty, and who knows I may even buy you an ice cream!”

     “Of course you realize you will have trophies to present to the winner of each class” 21 said as they mounted the steps leading up onto the Piazza.
     No.2 didn’t, but he wasn’t going to let that spoil his afternoon!

     It was a very pleasant day, blue sky, sunshine; a grand day for the regatta, there was a gentle breeze creating perfect sailing conditions.

46


No.2 was determined to enjoy himself being out of the out of the office for a couple of hours or so, even to the point of admiring the pond yachts, and as he and No.21 mingled amongst the gathered spectators. To his surprise No.2 was greeted warmly by most citizens, but some were a little wary of the Chairman of the Village, perhaps they recalled who No.2 once was, a prisoner much like themselves. But now being elevated to such a lofty position they were unsure of the inmate who had been placed in charge of the asylum!

    No.2 treated himself and No.21 to an ice cream, raspberry being the flavour of the day.

    “Do you think you should say a few words sir? 21 suggested enjoying his ice cream cone.
    “Whatever for?”
    “I thought to open the proceedings, to make it official so to speak.
    “The regatta seems to have been well organized…do you know I never realized there was a yachting club in the Village” 2 said looking at a number of light blue jerseys worn by the yachtsmen.
    “I believe permission for the club to be formed was given some months ago” 21 said.

    “The event seems to be well organized, people are enjoying themselves, why spoil a good thing?” No.2 said looking about him.
    “As you say sir.”

    No.36 was also at the regatta; he had bought himself an ice cream and was sat on a bench watching the proceedings. The competitors were making their preparations to their pond yachts, setting sails, adjusting the jib and rigging. The course was an easy one, yachts were set on a course from the far end of the Free Sea towards the fountain, round the fountain, and back again, each race was run in pairs. The first race would be between Northern Star with white hull with green trim and Southern Star with white hull and blue trim. The second race was to be between Endeavour I and Pride of The Pond, and the third race between Endeavour II and The Surprise. Each competitor is armed with a pole and is able to walk long either side of the Free Sea in order to nudge their yacht into an opposite tack before collision with the edge. The Pond yachts having been put into different classes according to size. There has been one disqualification, the ex-Admirals battleship, however it was agreed that at some point between races a demonstration of the battleship could take place in order to entertain the spectators. To this the ex-Admiral reluctantly agreed.

   The first race was about to get underway, much to the delight of the spectators. No.80 set the rigging of Northern Star and No.59 did likewise with Southern Star, and with both yachts in the water the race was under way. Both yachts looked good as they were carried along by a gentle breeze. Northern Star headed towards the edge of the Free Sea but No.80 eased her away with the tip of his pole, while Southern Star took an early lead along the pool towards the fountain, but instead of heading towards the side the yacht headed straight for it, making No.59 hold out his pole and ease Southern Star onto a tack which was to take the yacht round the fountain, but found difficulty in this. This gave Northern Star time to catch her sister yacht and swept passed as No.59 tried to regain the yacht’s course. With a prod from No.80’s pole Southern Star made it cleanly round the fountain and on a return course to finish the race. But No.59 had managed to get Northern Star back on an even course, rounded the fountain and began to catch Southern Star, however with a gentle prod from the pole managed to stop her from crashing into the wall Southern Star crossed the line to win.

47

    In the next race Endeavour II beat the Amis Reunis. The races continued and the spectators watched with enjoyment the Pride of the Pond beat Endeavour I and Endeavour II in both her races. Southern Star went on to race Endeavour II however both yachts failed to finish. There was a collision; Endeavour II’s bow sprite became entangled in Southern Star’s rigging. Try as much as they may the two pole men could not separate the two yachts, and in the end had to wade into the Free Sea to retrieve them. The regatta continued through the afternoon and once the final race had been run it was announced that the most outstanding yacht in any class was the Pride of the Pond. And it was No.2’s duty and pleasure to award the Regatta silver cup to No.36 much to the applause of the crowd, along with prizes for different yacht classes.

    “Good afternoon citizens” the cheery female voice said over the public address system “what an exciting regatta we have all enjoyed. However the thrills are not over yet. To close the regatta there is to be a sea battle re-enactment between a pocket battleship and two D class destroyers.”

    The spectators watched eagerly as the ex-Admiral put the pocket battleship into the water at one end of the Free Sea. His first officer at other end put the two D class destroyers into the water. All three ships were motorized models and complete in every detail, there was even smoke coming out of the smoke stacks, and controlled from two control boxes. The pocket battleship set off, as did the two destroyers from around the fountain. Suddenly the destroyers parted and sailed towards the battleship from two angles, this action would effectively split the fire power of the battleship. The two forward turrets of the battleship turned, fixing her guns on one of the destroyers and opened fire, one shell went over the destroyer while another fell short, but a third found the range and a hit was scored on the destroyer who opened fire in return but falling short of its mark. Both the ex-Admiral and his first officer worked feverishly at their control panels, especially the first officer, as he had two ships to control. The second destroyer moved in on the battleship opening fire with her forward guns, then turning fired a broadside, as did the battleship scoring several hits on the destroyer. While the first destroyer fired two torpedoes at the pocket battleship, which took evasive action turning hard to starboard. Two of the torpedoes passed the ship, but the destroyer fired another two torpedoes at the battleship and the second destroyer continued her engagement. The battleship turned, but it was too late, the first torpedo struck amidships, the second hit the rudder and steering gear disabling the ship which began to list heavily to port. The two badly damaged destroyers moved in for the kill, but the ex-Admiral put up his hands indicating defeat and the battle was won.

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    Returning to his office No.2 telephoned the department of visual records requesting to review the film of the regatta. He ran the film on to the start of the sea battle and watched the battle play out on the wall screen. Picking up the telephone he called the supervisor in the control room.

    “What did you make of the regatta?” No.2 asked.

    “I think it went rather well” the supervisor said “everyone appeared to enjoy themselves.”

    “And what did you make of the spectacular finale?”

    “You mean the sea battle.”

    “Yes.”

    “It was rather spectacular” the supervisor agreed.

    “Did you have the ex-Admiral and his first officer followed?”

    “They went into the woods” the supervisor confirmed.
    “Why should they do that?”
    “They must have gone to see the Professor in the laboratory.”
    “The laboratory in the woods?”
    “Yes.”
    “And the professor?”

    “He’s been living in the laboratory for some time now, he’s generally left him to his own resources.”
    The pair of steel doors opened and No.21 entered the office.”
    “The Professor” No.2 said.
    “What about him?” 21 asked, approaching the desk.
    “You know about him?”
    “Yes. He’s generally left to his own devices because he has been of use to us from time to time.”

    “What business might the ex-Admiral and his first officer have with the Professor?”
    “I really don’t know sir, none I should have thought.

    “Very well supervisor, keep a sharp look out” 2 said and replaced the telephone back on his desk, he turned his attention back to his assistant.

    “What about those ships, I mean they look miniatures of the real thing. The destroyers were even armed with torpedoes. Would the ex…I mean Number Sixty-six and Number Fifty-nine have the capability to construct such craft?”
    “I shouldn’t have thought so” 21 began “sailing plastic boats is 
about their mark, constructing the pocket battleship and two destroyers are well beyond their capabilities I would have thought. And besides where would they get the materials to construct such crafts?”

    “Yes, that’s what worries me.”

    No.2 leaned forward and pressing a number of buttons on the control panel of his desk changed the picture on the wall screen, then panning surveillance cameras he was able to pick up the intended targets. The ex-Admiral and the first officer were carrying the three model ships between them along a path in the woods. This had been picked up on the wall screen in the control room.

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    At a fork in the path the Ex-Admiral and his first officer went to the right. A little further on there was a rock formation, the path lead up an incline to a steel door set in recess in the rock face. The steel door slid open and the two men went inside, the door closed behind them.

    No.2 produced a file from a shelf of his desk and began to thumb through it “The Professor has been ordering a good deal of materials over the past few months, metals, wiring, electric motors.”

    “Apparently he’s very mechanically minded. He helped with the reduction in size of the Village’s electronic system, apparently we have him to thank for the Beam” No.2 observed from the file.

    “May I suggest the ex-Admiral and his first officer have gone there in order to have the three crafts repaired by the Professor?”

    “You may 21, you may indeed. Helping someone out with their hobby is one thing, but I want to know what the Professor has been working on all this time in that laboratory of his.”

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