Only a a few hours earlier the Village had been bustling and alive. People went to and fro on their meaningless tasks, Rover raced after would-be escapees, and all was right with the world.
Now the buildings were empty and silent, Rover a charred mass, the people gone, their deliverer on his way to London with a former Number2, the butler, and the "rebellious youth" Number 48. The Prisoner had successfully survived the Degree Absolute; he had been led to the Throne, and had met Number1. Going still further, he launched a rocket containing Number1, blasted his way out of the Village, and had finally obtained his freedom.
Soon the man formerly known as Number6 would be arriving in London to return to his vacation plans while the former Number2 went into a building and Number48 went out hitchhiking.
The project had gone according to plan.
The Supervisor, waiting in the auxiliary Control Room, smiled briefly. This had been the ultimate test of the Village, and the Village had survived. Soon, everyone would be back together, if not happily so, and Number6 would be broken once and for all after realizing the utter futility of his fight.
Electronic display maps above his head allowed the Supervisor to keep track of Number One's rocket, completing its third orbit of the earth. Number6 had succeeded in launching the rocket, but in his elation at escaping had failed to realize the rocket might have a recoverable section. Number One was coming home.
At precisely three minutes and twelve seconds past the hour, the command module fired its retro-rockets and began its descent towards a landing within a half-mile of the Village.
The supervisor took one last look at the display maps, then turned and left the room. There was much work to be done.
A short time later a Village buggy stood waiting by the command module. The back of the buggy was totally enclosed. the Supervisor got into the driver's seat and began the slow triumphant return to the Village. As he drove he could see rows of people standing like statues, unseeing, unfeeling, unthinking. The concealed neuro-paralyzers had done their job perfectly. Only Number6 and his "friends" had been allowed to leave. All others found themselves frozen into immobility, captured by one of the Village's most secret, and most efficient, weapons.
Everything was proceeding according to plan.
The sun had set and the night insects were playing their chorus of sounds. Curfew had passed, although none of the Village "guests" had yet been returned. Number1 was within his new chamber in the throne room, and the Supervisor had returned to auxiliary control. He passed his hand over a series of buttons and another screen lit up, showing an undersea scene. Suddenly the tranquility of the view was broken as the sea bottom seemed to rock violently and quickly, darkening the water. Slowly a section of the sea floor began to move, revealing a gigantic slab of metal covering a mass of bubbling, erupting whitish material. Gradually one blob in particular disengaged itself from the rest of the mass and rose towards the surface. Once there, it began moving towards the seashore. Rover was again in action.
More and more of the panels came alive in auxiliary control as the Village strove towards full operation. The Supervisor watched on one of the monitors as Rover approached a group of the immobile Village captives. More dials were activated, and gradually some of the people began to move, their bodies straining considerably at first and then, noticing the presence of Rover, moving more firmly, beginning their long walk back towards the Village.The process, the Supervisor knew, would take several more hours, but soon all the Village personnel would be returned. He paused to check data coming over one of the computer screens when the sound of a door opening caused him to turn around.
Through the door stepped a tall woman, almost regal in her being. Her long blonde hair flowed over her shoulders. She was an incredibly beautiful woman, but it was a cold and terrible type of beauty.
"I'm the new Number Two," she announced.
Later, in London, the former Number2 was taking a bath and reflecting on his escape from the Village. He still wondered how they had managed to bring him back to life after he had died while trying to break Number Six in Degree Absolute. Still, he thought, one should be grateful for small favors, and he was not planning on taking a much deserved vacation. He wondered what would become of the butler, the small faithful fellow who had served the power of the position of Number3. He was sure, on the other hand, that Number Six would be able to make a go of whatever he tried.
His bath finished, the former Number2 decided that he would relax this evening, enjoy some wine and do some heavy reading. He wrapped a towel around his waist and started to leave the bathroom. As he turned the doorknob, however, he found that something was not right since the knob would not turn and the door would not open. He tried harder, but the door still refused to budge.
A look of fear came over his face as his efforts became more frantic. Suddenly gas began to pour out of the water faucet. He made one last valiant effort to force the door open before he collapsed onto the bathroom floor.
Number 48 had burned his Village clothes in protest. He had returned to his apartment and found that his roommate had left his clothes and other things till stored in the closed, so he changed his clothes, went out and withdrew some money from his account, and then decided he would enjoy a nice drive in the country.
He had walked to the bank, enjoying the marvelous sense of freedom he felt. but now he was walking towards his garage, hoping that his car was till there and in working order. He had been accused in the Village of being an "unbridled youth," protesting nothing he could define. "Right, Dad," he thought to himself.He unlocked his garage and went in. His car, covered by a layer of dust, was still there. He brushed some of the dust off with a convenient rag, then jumped into the driver's seat. He inserted his key in the ignition, turned it, and heard the purr of the car's engine sound through the garage.
He as about to use the automatic door opener on the front of the garage when suddenly metal restrainers appeared as if out of nowhere and fastened over his arms. He jerked and fought to try and free himself, but two more restrainers activated, this time clamping his legs firmly to the front seat. The car began to move of its own accord through the now-opened entrance, moving quickly down the road heading towards the more deserted roadways going out of London. Number 48 started to scream, hoping that someone would come to his aid. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his arm and as he looked down he saw a needle slowly withdrawing into the upholstery. Moments later he passed out, unaware that the car was returning him to the Village.When the Butler awoke, he knew what had happened. He was in the same small room he had lived in during his time in the Village, with the same diminutive furniture. A signal board was on the far wall, and a light was on indicating that he was needed in Number 2's room.
His freedom had been ended. It was time for Number Two's tea.
The throne room had been heavily damaged by the launching of the rocket. Now flocks of workers were busily clearing away debris, re-wiring circuits and striving to restore the room to full working order and appearance.Meanwhile the new Number Two, her hair hanging loosely over her shoulders, bowed in the direction of #1's new container, then left the room. Within minutes she had returned to her own egg-chair room. The butler arrived with a tray of tea and sandwiches.
The butler looked up at the new Number 2 in her egg-chair, then he turned and silently left the room.
Number Two checked the monitor screens, then called the Control Room.
"How are arrangements proceeding?", she asked.
"All systems have been returned to normal," the Supervisor replied.
"Then proceed with the final stage," she commanded.
The Prisoner, meanwhile, had returned to his apartment. He had already been to his former employers, telling them all the details about the Village that he could, receiving their promises that the matter would be "looked in to with all alacrity" rather coldly.
He walked up to his door and before he could put his key in the door hummed and opened on its own. His eyes immediately caught sight of a strange object sitting on his desk. He cautiously approached the desk, noting that the object was a round, white ball on some sort of pedestal. He picked it up and read the inscription on its bottom.
"Well Come Home"
The man formerly known as #6 raced from the room and to his car, determined to get away and go anywhere, just anywhere but here. As he opened the door of his car he noticed an object on the front seat. It was a Village badge with the number "6" . He threw the badge on to the street and then drove his car directly over it. He moved easily through the traffic, but he failed to notice a black car watching from a nearby alleyway.
His car entered a tunnel. Halfway through he noticed an odd scraping sound coming from behind him. He slowed the car and looked back, seeing a sheet of metal slam down, blocking off the entrance to the tunnel. Suddenly another sound reverberated through the corridor, this time from the direction he was heading. Another slab of steel slammed down, effectively isolating him in an enclosed metal and concrete box.Next came a jerking motion. He realized sickeningly that the corridor had become, in effect, a separate trailer, being pulled by some kind of truck and undoubtedly heading back towards the Village.*******
Somewhat later the Prisoner stalked out of his cottage, his anger higher than it had ever been before. He moved straight towards the Green Dome of Number 2, angrily pushing aside anyone who got in his way, not even bothering to pay attention to Rover who was dogging his steps every inch of the way.
The Prisoner walked up the stairs leading to the Green Dome, and then knocked on the front door. The butler, his face sad and very tired, opened it for him, then moved quietly out of the way as the Prisoner stormed into Number Two's control room.
Number Two sat in her egg-chair, smiling self-amusedly at the Prisoner as he came down the ramp and up to her.
"Welcome back, Number Six," she purred.
"You won't succeed," the Prisoner said icily. "The Village is no longer secret."
Oh?" was all she said in reply as her long delicate fingers moved over a control panel, finally choosing one particular button to depress. the monitor in front of the Prisoner came to life, and he saw and arm within a dark sleeve, the hand holding a file labeled "Report-the Village". The hand dropped the file into a fire, then turned away to other business."We shall always be here, Number Six," the new Number Two said.
The Prisoner left the chamber, his anger and frustration greater than ever. Behind him, the giant steel doors closed with a deafening finality.
Main index page
Main Prisoner index page