Protection and Escape
“The Prisoner” spun round as the door closed behind him with a familiar electronic hum and a solid click. The foyer was small but adequate, a round quarter table with a vase of flowers set upon it. On the walls were paintings of sailing ships, and to his immediate right a large fire place. A diminutive butler, in black tails, waistcoat, white shirt and black bow tie and black gloves, had been standing waiting for the visitor, he bowed politely and led the visitor the short distance to a pair of French doors, on either side a pair of matching burgundy leather winged armchairs. The butler opened the doors, showing the way up a short ramp to a pair of solid looking steel doors, which suddenly opened into a domed chamber beyond. The butler stood in the opening and holding his arm out ushered the visitor into the chamber, who paused in the doorway for a moment as he stared into the circular chamber, at the curved desk and at the figure sitting in the black spherical chair behind that desk. Taking in the purple circular wall and the large wall screen to the left of the door, he was greeted by the dark curly haired bespectacled man who now looked up from the file he had been reading.
“Ah there you are my dear fellow, do not hesitate, come in.”
The butler stepped forward, strode down the ramp and attended to the breakfast trolley, setting out knives and forks, plates, cups and saucers upon a table which had risen up through a hole in the floor.
“The Prisoner” then slowly and tentatively walked down the ramp spinning round sharply as the pair of steel doors slid shut with a solid clang.
“I assure you there’s absolutely nothing to be nervous about, but I can understand your apprehension at being here, and I suppose they have taken a bit of a liberty. But we are all friends here as you will soon come to realise” Number 2 assured his visitor.
“Friends I don’t know you” the Prisoner replied with suspicion.
Number 2 observed his butler having completing the setting out the breakfast things “You’ll feel better after you’ve eaten, what would you like, full English, or continental, pancakes perhaps. Buttered toast and marmalade with tea or coffee?” Number 2 offered.
“Just coffee’ the Prisoner replied.
Number 2 nodded and the butler filled two cups from the silver coffee pot, added milk and sugar to one, and the other plain black which he offered it to his master’s visitor.
The Prisoner took the cup and stared into the strong black coffee, while the butler held out the second cup of coffee on a tray to his master Number 2.
“Thank you that will be all” Number 2 told his manservant.
The butler bowed and pushing the breakfast trolley up the ramp took his leave through the opening steel doors, which closed behind
him leaving Number 2 alone with his visitor.
“There’s no need to be suspicious.”
“I have every need!”
“I should think you’re feeling a little disorientated” said Number 2 stirring his coffee.
“You know I am. What’s this all about?” the Prisoner demanded to know.
“Please help do yourself to breakfast, I think one should never begin the day on an empty stomach, besides my butler has gone to so much trouble in preparing your favourite for you” offered Number 2.
The Prisoner cup in hand walked slowly over to the round table, glanced at the man sitting behind the desk and lifting the cover off the dish found a full English bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, grilled tomato, and fried bread. For some reason Number 2 found this amusing and smiled quietly to himself.
The Prisoner replaced the cover helping himself to three lumps of sugar from the small silver bowl, then turning back to face the man behind the desk, slowly stirring, drank his coffee, before putting the empty cup and saucer down upon the desk. Number 2 said nothing, he simply observed the man from the comfort of his chair, through his black rimmed spectacles.
“Now that the pleasantries are over, perhaps you could answer me a couple of questions?” the Prisoner asked politely.
“Perhaps, but I can’t promise” Number 2 replied between sips of coffee.
“Who are you…. where am I…. and why was I brought here?” the Prisoner demanded aggressively.
“That’s three questions” returned Number 2 putting his cup down and holding up three fingers of his right hand.
“Yes, and if you can’t answer them, I’ll find someone who can!” the Prisoner barked across the desk.
“I am in charge, I am Number Two” the man behind the desk said, tapping the white penny farthing badge upon the left lapel of his plain black blazer, indicating the red numeral 2 with an index finger.
“Get Number One!” the Prisoner growled.
“I’ve told you, I’m in charge.”
The Prisoner showed Number 2 nothing but contempt and began to circle round the chamber, pausing just long enough to examine the free standing Penny Farthing bicycle strangely fitted with two stabilising wheels either side of the farthing wheel. There was also a tall lava lamp standing on the floor, but this proved to be two, the one on top of the other, blue green in colour, the hot wax rising up and floating down in unending repetition. And the wall screen which depicted the same lavonic movement as inside the lava lamp, but on a much larger scale.
Number 2 remained silent, but kept pace with the Prisoner, revolving his chair as his visitor walked round him and his desk.
“And this place?” asked the Prisoner staring at the large wall screen.
“Is the Village, to be perfectly honest I’m surprised they bothered to send you here, you’re not at all important to us or anyone else for that matter” Number 2 informed him.
“Then why am I here?” asked the Prisoner turning away from the screen and resuming his pacing of the chamber.
“Don’t sound so surprised, you’ve been asking people some very embarrassing questions” Number 2 informed him finishing his coffee.
The Prisoner stopped his pacing, crossed the floor and stared Number 2 directly in the face “What people?”
“Oh please, don’t play dumb with me, it doesn’t suit you. We know all about you” Number 2 told him opening the file “especially of your recent activities, since leaving…… where was it now?”
“If you know, you don’t need me to tell you, do you?” the Prisoner said somewhat sarcastically.
Number 2 looked at the page in the file and
at the same time pressing a button on the control panel of his desk “Oh yes……
Instantly the image on the wall screen changed, from lava lamp to a hotel room, more than that, an image of a hotel room with the Prisoner lying on a bed with the telephone receiver in his hand. Then the image changed again, to the Prisoner standing by the window looking out of his hotel room and into the street below. Then again the image changed, this time the man was holding a hand gun, a revolver, then busy packing a suitcase, then dashing for the door and out through the door, the screen went black.
“You were in
The Prisoner was stunned by what he had been watching on the screen, and turned to face Number 2 in disbelief, Number 2 simply sat back in the comfort of his chair, smirking back at him.
The large wall screen returned to life, the
Prisoner seen on screen handing over his passport to a customs officer and
again in a series of shots taken during his time in
The screen carried on with the slide show, arriving in Buckingham
Place, driving off in the Lotus Seven, being followed through London, the meeting with Sir Charles, then later the meeting with his daughter Janet in Regents Park. The freedom of the open road…….. then smash and the screen went blank.
“You see, there is nothing we don’t know about you old boy, what you were doing in Prague, why you returned to London so abruptly….”
The Prisoner glared at the man in the chair.
“That’s alright old boy there’s no need for you to say anything else, you have simply been brought here for you own good, you need protection!” Number 2 offered.
The Prisoner stormed forward and stared at Number 2 still sat in his chair “Protection, protection from who, you?” he shouted angrily.
Number 2 remained calm and composed as was his usual demeanour, always cool and calculating “From yourself my dear fellow! Once you settle down you’ll find that life here can be quite pleasant.”
The Prisoner was growing quite agitated and began to pace up and down “Supposing I don’t want to……. settle down?”
“Oh you will my dear fellow, given time. The Village is for life, you have no choice, and there is no escape. Think about it Number Six.”
“What did you call me?” snorted the Prisoner.
“Number Six, for official purposes everyone has a number, yours is Number Six.”
“I am not a number, I am a person” the Prisoner responded.
Number 2 leaned forward in his chair and lowered his glasses “You’ve been here before?”
The Prisoner looked about him and then at the man sitting in the chair “Here, what should I do here? I assure you that I was never here in my life.”
“Then I must have been thinking of someone else…… good day Number Six.”
The interview over, the pair of steel doors opened and Number 6 departed up the ramp and out through the foyer. Number 2 sat back in the warm comfort of his chair, yet a chill ran up his spine as he thought for a moment, it was as though someone had walked over
his grave. He must have been thinking of someone else…… “Good day Number Six,” the words echoing and re-echoing as they disturbed a not so distant memory.
Number 6 stormed out of Number 2’s office, the steel doors closing behind him. The butler bowed as he swept passed him through the foyer, out through the door and portico, onto the balcony into the bright morning sunshine of the Village.
“No escape, well we’ll see about that” he thought as he stood at the balustrade.
During his interview with Number 2 the Village itself had come to life, people were everywhere and everyone was dressed in brightly coloured clothes, piped blazers, straw boaters and some citizens wore colourful striped capes or carried colourful striped umbrellas. There was, Number 6 found admitting to himself, a holiday camp atmosphere about the place. He stormed down the steps of the Green Dome and in the road a cyclist pedalled passed on her bicycle, ringing her bell either in warning to pedestrians, or greeting to him. It was an ordinary looking bicycle, but with the added protection of a candy coloured canopy which gave it a touch of the unusual. And then a well dressed gentleman in deerstalker hat, tweed dog coat and plus sixes walked passed pushing a squeaking Penny Farthing bicycle.
An open topped taxi then pulled up sharply “Where to sir?” the oriental girl asked with a cheery smile.
Number 6 looked at the young girl, who couldn’t be more than in her mid twenties, and wondered what a girl like her was doing here.
Number 6 climbed into the front passenger seat “Take me to the nearest town.”
“I couldn’t do that, we’re only the local service” the taxi driver informed him.
“Local you say, then you’ll know the way out of here!” quipped Number 6, with a determined look in his eye.
The taxi drove forward down the street, taking the scenic route around The Village. Number 6 sat looking out at the Village as the taxi wound it’s way along the roads and streets which he himself had driven earlier that morning, and they were getting precisely nowhere!
“Look can you tell me if we’re ever going to leave the confines of this place?”
The girl simply smiled at him.
“This is a strange job for a girl.”
“Being a taxi driver you mean?”
“Yes. I suppose you get all kinds of fares” Number 6 asked.
The taxi continued on its journey, passed the café, round the corner passed the ice cream parlour and down the hill.
“I’m kept busy if that’s what you mean” the girl replied.
“Tell me, have you ever given a fare to a man looking similar to me, about six feet tall, light brown hair, blue eyes and possibly wearing a
suit similar to mine?”
The taxi driver looked at her fare “Dressed like you, you mean a new arrival?”
“New arrival?” Number 6 queried.
“Well no one dresses like that here in the Village, so you must be new here” the girl explained.
“Well have you seen anyone looking like me?” he persisted.
The taxi sped passed the Town Hall sounding its two tone horn, warning pedestrians of its approach.
“Looking for this man are you?”
“I had started out doing so, now I’m beginning to think that my search has led me here, or seen me brought here. So I wondered if the same had happened to the man I’m looking for, and perhaps you had seen someone of that description that’s all” he explained.
The taxi reached the bottom of the hill and turned round for the journey back.
“You can’t expect me to remember everyone sir” the taxi driver told him.
The taxi took the right fork and passed the pink pavilion, from which the Village brass band were emerging playing the Radetski March. The taxi slowed for the procession to pass as the brass band slowly made its way towards the lawn and the bandstand beyond. Then moving on, the taxi went up the cobbled street, turning right at the top and into the cobbled square, a short distance from where Number 6 had begun his ride.
“What are we doing here?”
“I can take you anywhere you like; just as long as you arrive back where you started” she told him “I did tell you we’re only the local service!”
Number 6 climbed out of the taxi in frustration, well he might have known really.
“The fare is two units” the taxi driver told him.
“Units?” Number 6 queried.
“Credit units, never mind pay me next time, be seeing you” the girl saluted with thumb and index finger of her left hand, and then drove off looking for her next fare.
Number 6 was left standing in the cobbled square wondering what his next move should be, when a man walked passed holding up an open umbrella.
“You expect rain?” Number 6 asked.
“Showers later!” the man replied.
Number 6 looked up into the clear blue sky, showers later, ridiculous! Then turning towards the General Stores he found it closed. He stood there thinking for a moment, then stormed off down the road, bumping into a couple of pedestrians as he went. Flanking his left was a stone wall and the top of the bandstand, on his right a rocky tor rose high above him. The road turned to the left, on the opposite side was a pair of wrought iron gates, through them the garden of a very impressive pink and white mansion, a miniature Chatsworth one might almost say. To his immediate right were stone steps leading upwards, this for the prisoner was enough, he quickly scrambled up the steps, through an archway and into the gravelled clearing at the back of a set of terraced cottages, beyond which lay the woods. Crossing the gravelled clearing the prisoner ran into the woods and along the twisting, winding path. Now and again he would pause and glance over his shoulder, and listened, just in case he had been seen and was being followed. He need not have worried, there was no one behind him and no sound of any such pursuers, yet he was under close surveillance, although he did not know it. Leaving the path, Number 6 forced his way through undergrowth and bushes alike, and from which he was about to emerge, but ducked back just in time as a taxi passed by along the road. Then turning another way he quickly ran through two lines of stone busts mounted on tall stone plinths, Voltaire, Darwin, Archimedes, Socrates, Brunell and Gariboldi. The bust of Voltaire began to turn upon its plinth and in the direction of the escaping prisoner. For mounted in Voltaire’s left eye, was an electronic surveillance camera.
Observing the man to be some distance away from the Village, it was the supervisor in the control room who advised Number 2 of the Prisoner’s approach to the ‘Outer Zone’, and it was that very same supervisor who authorised the ‘Orange Alert.’
“Orange alert, orange alert” the Supervisor ordered into the ‘L’ shaped telephone.
From somewhere there came a blood curdling roar, both terrifying and unearthly, a combination of Gregorian chant, the sound of a bicycle pump, and the roar of something. Number 6 instantly dropped to his knees, such were his reflexes, and as he turned he saw the white membranic mass of the Guardian bounding towards him. Standing up, and realising instinctively that running was not an option, he prepared to stand his ground and confront this white balloon looking thing, yet as he did so the Guardian was upon him, knocking him to the ground. And as he scrambled to his feet again, was knocked back down, it was upon him again, covering its prey’s face with its membrane, against which the fingers of its victim clawed and struggled. The Prisoner screamed and screamed again as he gasped for air, his lungs burning, his heart pounding, pounding fit to burst, as his struggles slowly ebbed away, the Guardian suffocating its prey into unconsciousness.
The Guardian stood quivering by the unconscious body lying on the woodland ground, as the siren of the white ambulance, towing behind it a white canopied Red Cross trailer, drew nearer and nearer along the track leading into the woods. Finally arriving on scene two medics and a nurse clambered out of the white Mini Moke ambulance, the nurse carrying a medical bag, to attend to the patient, the medics taking a stretcher from the trailer, upon which they lifted the unconscious body as the nurse prepared a hypodermic syringe of amber coloured liquid, pushed up the patient’s right sleeve and injected the drug into his arm.
The Guardian rolled away, either to return to its patrolling duties, or to be deactivated and returned to its containment area somewhere out at sea deep below the waves.
The ambulance with the patient placed securely in the Red Cross trailer sped along the track through the woods where it met with the road leading to the hospital on the outskirts of the Village, a huge stone building which had once portrayed itself to be a castle.