“Yes, I understand. … Oh, no, I agree totally sir. Yes indeed, it was a mistake. … Everything will be put to right soon, you have my word. … No, regrettably Number Six said nothing. But he is tight-lipped. … Yes, yes I will. … Thank you, sir, thank you very much.” He put down the red phone and exited through the concealed door to the rear of the room, giving the monitor one last glance as he did. Number Two would be back soon and he didn’t need to be here.
The Supervisor smiled to himself. He was glad they had never “offered” the Number Two position to him. He was good at what he did and that was one reason they kept him where he was. Another reason was that he never spoke of what he saw. The man who had just used the red phone? That came as a surprise even to him. The twists and turns never ceased to amaze him. But he never reacted, never spoke to anyone of them. Sometimes he felt as though he knew more about what was going on than Number Two did.
The Butler never moved a facial muscle. The question uppermost in his mind at the moment was: “I wonder how he takes his tea?”
Number Six tried to look innocent. Surely they hadn’t noticed that he’d spotted the hatch. If they had they wouldn’t have allowed him to return to the spot. Unless of course it was some meaningless hole leading nowhere, which was what he half expected. But it could be a way out and he’d never know unless he checked. Rover floated only a few feet from the boat as he prepared for his last dive. Falling over the side backwards, the water splashing around him, he began his descent.
He swam along the wall of whatever it was. On the other side he could see various forms of marine life. There was a shark moving slowly towards him. At one point it obviously touched the wall and jerked away as though shocked. He made his way towards the hatch. He knew they were watching but he had to try, he had to know. And the Village warders only need slip up once. Perhaps this was that time. At about twenty feet distance from the hatch he made a dash for it. He grasped the wheel of a handle and began turning it. He could see Rover sinking towards him. He pulled. The hatch opened with Rover about fifteen feet away. There was nothing but blackness inside the hatch. Suddenly there was a rushing of water, a pull. He was literally sucked into the hole. The force was so great that it hurled him against the interior head first. That was the last thing he remembered. Until later.
Three men were standing over him. One yelled at him: “Are you a fool?! The interior mechanism wasn’t turned on! You could’ve flooded the entire level if we hadn’t turned on the emergency valve system!”
One of the other men punched the man speaking on the shoulder. He said, “I don’t think he’s one of the crew. He’s a topper.”
“Well how’d he get here then?”
“Don’t know, but have either of you ever seen him before? Any word that a new crew member was coming on?’
“No”, both of the others muttered.
“Up with you!” The second man grabbed Number Six by the arm, pulling him up roughly. “Come along then. We’ll soon see what you’re about.”
As they escorted a rather groggy Number Six down a rock lined corridor he thought he saw steam rising through what looked to be a vent of some sort. And he thought he could hear music from someplace, he wasn’t sure where. He was stumbling, blood dripping down the side of his head. He wasn’t sure how badly he was hurt.
At last they entered a control room of sorts. He was starting to come around now, a little more at himself. He felt his head.
“You set here then!” And the first man pushed him into a chair. “You,” he spoke to the third man roughly, “Go call topside. Get word to Number Two that we have a possible topper here. He’ll know what to do. Hurry about it!”
He was fully himself now, but not acting like it. He slumped over a panel of switches, holding his head. And reading labels. Valves, motors, lighting, vent system, flow control. Interesting labels. He seemed to have been there forever.
“Ah, Number Six,” said the familiar voice, “whatever shall we do with you? I give you an inch and you take the proverbial mile. I’ll expect the return of the scuba gear of course.”
“Of course,” Number Six sat up straighter, looking at Number Two.
“And have you satisfied your curiosity?”
“Not quite,” Number Six smiled as he suddenly flipped three of the most promisingly labeled switches.
A number of alarms went off. “Good choice,” he thought to himself.
Number Two went deathly pale. “You fool! You’ll kill us all!”
Number Six could hear shouts. He thought he heard rushing water. Number Two pulled him towards what looked like a glass tube. In a moment they were traveling upward, as though in an elevator. An elevator made for speed.
“Yes … Yes … I understand … Yes … Yes, at once.” A pallid Number Two set the red phone down.
The Supervisor watched with a sort of perverse satisfaction from the control room.
The Butler walked towards the door, pushing the tea cart before him. Tea time was obviously over.
The two bottom levels had been flooded. The computer systems were a total loss. It would take days to pump out the sea water, and weeks to install new equipment. Number Six new he’d created a disturbance. He had no idea how much of one. Of the five lower levels of The Village “system”, as the keepers called it, these two were a large part of the nerve center. This was a major victory for Six. Sadly, he would never know how great a victory it had been.
“Number Six report to the Green Dome. Number Six, please report to the Green Dome immediately.” The public address system seemed a bit out of sync today.
Number Six, paying for his tea, left the cafe and walked leisurely towards Number Two’s office. Knowing that he had done some damage somehow made this visit worthwhile.
The doors slid open, the Butler waving Number Six in. The globular chair didn’t move. He was at the desk before it slowly began to revolve. The new Number Two smiled slyly. The new Number Two, the old Number Forty One, spoke slowly, deliberately.
“Ah, my dear Number Six. What a wonderfully devious Villager you are. You’ll never know the pains I’ve gone through on your account.”
“Don’t feel obligated.”
“Yes, well I do have a responsibility towards the citizens,” he sighed. “Be glad you’re not being billed for your little escapade. But, after having helped, without knowing it of course, remove a weak cog from our machinery writing off the bill was the least I could do. And I just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you should you ever feel the need to talk.”
“Yes, things will change, have changed, for the better,” Number Two smiled as he spoke into the red phone. “He wouldn’t confide in me as a fellow Villager, but I guarantee,” his teeth gritted, “he WILL confide in me now. … Oh, no sir, I wouldn’t think of damaging the tissue.”
~ finis ~