The woman slowly regained consciousness, and realized that she was unfamiliar with her surroundings.
It looked like a bedroom, but certainly not her own bedroom. She got up and wandered into a strange apartment. There was nothing distinct about the scene. It seemed like a normal apartment with a tastefully modern decor.
She walked to the window and the woman could not recognize the world outside. What happened? One minute she was planning a getaway to Tahiti, and the next minute she ends up in this place. It didn't look like London, and it barely looked like England. She decided it would be best to explore the area and find a telephone or some way to determine her location.
The door opened automatically and she emerged in the morning light. She walked up a winding stone path and saw a bell tower. Perhaps she could see the terrain or area architecture and figure out where she was? She climbed the tower as her shoulder-length red hair blew in the wind coming in off the sea. Unfortunately, all she saw was the sea, forest, and a few buildings that looked like a quaint old township. She imagined a gift shop with snow globes and t-shirts that read "My Best Friend Went to Colonial Middle-of-Nowhere and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."
The woman found her way back down to the ground, and she walked past a sidewalk cafe. Two waitresses were taking chairs off tables and preparing for the day ahead. She ventured, "Pardon me. Do you have a telephone?"
"No, Miss. But you can see the box across the street there," a waitress replied.
She went across the street to a board with a map and a bizarre phone. It featured a sign that read "For information, lift and press." She lifted and pressed the button on the receiver, only to hear a voice say, "Hello! What is your number, please?"
The woman was confused. Number? She had no number, and she echoed her thoughts with "Number? I have no number."
She heard the operator reply, "No number, no call." The call ended, and she was back to square one.
Okay. 'So far, so creepy,' she thought. A taxi pulled up and the driver said, "Taxi, Miss?" The driver followed up with something she barely recognized as French.
The woman wondered, "Why did you speak to me in French?"
"French is international. I had taken you to be either a Pole or a Czech. We get a lot of people from all over the world. Where to, Miss?"
"As far as you can go," the redhead insisted.
"We're only the local service, Miss."
The woman begrudgingly said, "Fine, just go."
They drove through the winding roads and nothing looked familiar. The vehicle came to an abrupt stop and the driver reminded the woman "I did say it was only the local service, Miss. That will be two credit units."
The woman was caught off-guard. "Credit units? I, uh, don't think I have any."
The driver shrugged. "All right, just pay me next time. Be seeing you." The driver seemed to salute the woman in a bizarre fashion.
Left alone, and still without any information about her whereabouts, the redhead wandered into a shop. She asked for a map, and the clerk asked if she wanted it in black-and-white or color. The woman wasn't sure, so she asked for a black-and-white map. It wasn't very big, and all she saw along the perimeter was "the mountains." This wouldn't do. "No, I was hoping for something larger."
The clerk responded, "Only other map we have is in color, Miss."
The woman was irritated, but alternatives were in short supply. "Fine. Just let me see it." She opened up the map and again only saw "the mountains" and the layout of "Your Village." She threw the clerk a curious look.
The clerk seemed to know what the woman was after, but he certainly wasn't going to help. "Only local maps, Miss."
The redhead was getting tired of receiving local information. "Okay, perhaps I'll try someplace else. Goodbye." The clerk seemed almost genuine when he replied, "Sorry I can't help you, Miss. Be seeing you."
She needed to find out where she was, and how to get home to London. She made her way back to the apartment where she woke up. The door opened, and she walked in to further explore her environs. A card on a table read "Welcome to Your Home from Home."
The phone rang. She picked up the receiver and answered, "Hello?"
"Hello Number 6! Come and join me for breakfast. Number 2. The green dome."
The woman was confused, but figured she might as well find out what the man wanted, or what he he could do for her. She walked back out and went toward a building on a hill with a green dome.
As the red-haired woman walked into the room, she noticed the decor had changed. The quaint, rustic town feeling was replaced with lava lamps and austere walls. A man sat in a black chair shaped like a sphere. He spun around.
"Ah! Number 6! Welcome! Take a seat." He pushed a button, and a chair popped out of the floor. The man pushed another button, and a very short, bald man walked in. He wore a butler's suit and wheeled in a cart with assorted breakfast foods. The short man bowed and exited the room through steel doors. The other man stood from his chair and asked, "Sugar or lemon with your tea?"
"Lemon," the woman replied after a pause.
"Bacon with your eggs?" he inquired further.
"Of course! How silly of me. I'll have to remember that and put it in your file. Interesting record. Quite a career you left behind!"
"Not as much vacation time as I would have liked," she flatly replied.
"Is that so? Well, you won't need to worry about such matters anymore, Number 6. A clean slate, that's what you'll get here. Others might say 'watch your step' or 'we'll be watching you' but that's just not the way we do things around here. We are here to service your needs, and help you to respect our needs. And have your needs... and our needs... mesh."
"Your needs?" she replied with a raised eyebrow.
"Information. Seems you were privy to quite a lot of it at your former post. And then your sudden resignation! What could have prompted you to leave such a stimulating career?"
She considered the man before her. He seemed to be the man in charge, the man that could explain where she was and how to get home. He was also remarkably chipper. So she answered, "I resigned because I no longer felt comfortable in my role with the Council. There is nothing more to say. But... I would very much like it if you told me who you are, and why I am here?"
"Of course, how rude. I am Number 2. You are Number 6, and this is the Village. Your new home."
"The Village? Where is the Village?"
"That would be telling. All you need to know is that this is where you belong until you tell us why you resigned," he replied with a smile.
"You may think you know me and where I belong, but I will not be classified, filed, briefed, or debriefed. I am not a number. I am a person."
"Six of one, half dozen of the other. I can see your passion, but your feelings are irrelevant," he responded with a eerie confidence. Quickly returning to his former perky tone he said, "Come! Let me show your our charming community." He led her toward a door. She hesitated , but slowly followed him up a flight of stairs and emerged outside on a helicopter landing pad. Number 2 invited her into the waiting aircraft, and they set forth on their aerial tour of the Village.
Number 2 began to point out notable locations within the Village. "There is the Old Peoples Home, the Town Hall, and the Club. Members only, but I think I could arrange something for you. You might even meet someone you know!"
The woman was unnerved by her companion, but decided to play it cool. "Wouldn't that be nice. Perhaps you could send them my regards after I escape."
"Ha! Escape? I don't think you'll be doing that anytime soon. Why don't we set down there by the fountain and I'll show you what I mean."
The helicopter landed, and they stepped out onto the grass. Number 2 gave the redhead an excited look and said, "Watch this!" The pedestrians came to an abrupt halt around her, save one. He seemed desperate to get far away, zigzagging frantically across the lawn. Suddenly, something started to close in on him. It looked like a large white balloon, bouncing along behind the fugitive. The man seemed panicked, and ran as fast as he could down to the beach. Number 2 urged Number 6 to follow, and her green eyes watched as the white blob engulfed the man. She could hear his screams, and almost feel them, as they were muffled and eventually silenced.
While she cringed, Number 2 walked up beside her. "No community pride, that's what's wrong with that boy. Now it's all gangs, and drugs and those movies on Showtime with the nudity. Don't turn out like that poor chap, Number 6. It would be a shame to see you ignore the opportunities our Village can offer. Why don't you get comfortable, and we'll talk later. Be seeing you."
He walked away, and Number 6 was left again with her thoughts. She made her way toward a patio area and an older gentleman asked her to join him for a game of chess. Deciding it would be good to rest, and possibly cull information, she sat down in front of the chessboard.
After a hard-fought game, the old man had bested her. Unfortunately, he also didn't seem interested in talk of escape, freedom, or the identity of Number 1. "Checkmate, Miss. Better luck next time. Be seeing you!"
"Thanks Gramps, you're the man." She stood up to depart, and he called after her, "We're all pawns, my dear."
She went back to her apartment to be alone. As soon as the redhead set foot inside, she immediately sensed another person on the premises. She crept to the kitchen, where she saw a blonde girl doing some dance and mopping her floor. "Who are you?"
The blonde spun around with a gasp. "Uh! You scared me! I'm your maid, Miss. Number 309. Sent by the Labour Exchange. Girl's gotta find a way to earn currency to exchange for goods and/or services. You didn't think this was a Communist Village, did you?"
Number 6 gave her a befuddled look as the maid continued, "Well, that's not to say that there aren't Communists here. I mean, they've got to do something with them. Dreadful people, really. No conception of Capitalist superiority. Terrible tippers, and no sense of humor. Oh dear, you're not one of them, are you?"
"No, I'm a goddess-fearing, democracy-loving piece of the capitalist machine. Although I would put myself on the liberal side of matters. Hope that doesn't offend, not that I give a rabbit's ass what you think."
The maid recoiled. "What kind of sick game are you playing, lady!? You don't just... say that to a person!"
The redhead took a step back and smiled. "You're an odd one, aren't you?"
"Some consider my thoughts strange, and my speech even stranger. They have a saying around here: 'A still tongue makes a happy life.' Frankly, that's never really been my idea of a good time. Now, I should continue my chores, as they are both difficult and time-consuming." The maid returned to her mop.
The redhead turned on her heel and decided to peruse her apartment. She idly wondered if there was a place to get magic supplies. Maybe there was a spell she could use to teleport, or at least figure out where she was? She came upon a speaker and a television set, bookshelves, generic canned foods, and she continued through the rooms to familiarize herself with her new space.
A woman stood watching the panel of screens. Men and woman bustled about behind her. Some rushed by with clipboards, others operated a pair of observation cameras on a crane. She wore a slim white lab coat and had tied her blonde hair in a bun. She noticed the careful manner in which the subject observed her surroundings, and she could not help but concentrate on the girl in the center of the screen.
Number 2 approached from behind. He attempted to solicit her initial reactions to the subject. "So, what do you think of our new arrival?"
The woman looked at him through deep blue eyes and answered, "She is a curious sort. Obviously very intelligent, and I s-sense a great deal of p-power. I'd like permission to move the plan along and go in sooner."
"Did I ask you to speak?" The woman looked at him quizzically. He remembered, and said, "Okay, so maybe I did. The important thing is to be careful. I cannot afford to fumble this assignment."
The blonde woman tried to respond in as polite a fashion as possible. "Of course, s-sir, it was only a suggestion. I would never do anything to endanger the project. How about we give it a week, and then consider our options?"
"Perhaps. Just remember to keep her in our grasp. She is a valuable asset. If she falls into the wrong hands, or refuses to cooperate, we will all be in deep trouble. Including you." Number 2 finished with a menacing glare, and walked out.
The blonde turned back to the screen and continued her observations of the subject. The woman seemed to have tired of her apartment and wandered down to the beach.
'The sea!' the redhead thought to herself. Perhaps that was how she could escape? As she walked along the beach she noticed a few caves, forest-covered mountains, a dock, and, more importantly, a boat. Her technical training made it easy to start the engine, and soon she was headed out to sea.
The blonde noticed the subject start the engine of the motorboat, and watched with curiosity as Number 6 attempted to make her escape. Though she admired her spirit, this would just not do. She sounded the alarm and picked up a phone to announce, "Yellow Alert. Yellow Alert. Prisoner is approaching Northern perimeter. Contact imminent. Yellow Alert."
She pushed a button, and a bubble emerged from the bottom of the sea. The rover was en route.
The redhead began searching the boat for supplies, and threw her head back to check for guards. It was only until she looked back ahead that she saw the white form that floated directly in her path. 'What? Where do those come from?' she thought in a panic. 'Maybe I can jump out and it will go after the boat?'
She jumped into the water, only to find herself in front of the white blob. It moved closer to her, and she lost consciousness as it swallowed her.
Number 6 woke up in what seemed like a hospital. Her head was splitting. A doctor came in and did some tests to make sure she was recovered from her escape attempt. "Can take quite a lot out of you. You seem to recover very well. Some people don't wake up for days. Let's just check your reflexes once more and I'll send you on your way."
She followed the doctor to an examination room, but also noticed several rooms where different tests were taking place. One long room lit entirely in red, and contained people sitting against the walls looked like vegetables. Another room held a woman tied to a chair, frantically wrestling under their restraints. 'If the intention was to intimidate,' she thought, 'mission accomplished.'
The doctor finished up and released her with an identity card, a credit card, and a pin with an odd bicycle and the number 6 on it. "Take care of yourself, Number 6, and don't go stealing any more boats. Be seeing you."
She'd had enough of this place, and made her way to the green dome to resolve this once and for all.
The red-haired woman walked with determination into Number 2's chambers, only to find a complete stranger sitting in the center of the room. He was short, bald, and his ears stuck out from the side of his head. "Where is Number 2?"
"Hello, Number 6. I am the new Number 2. The former Number 2 had to, um, depart, and I have taken his place."
"Well, perhaps you could direct me to Number 1, or just explain what the hell is going on around here!?"
"Now, Number 6. I hardly think you're in a position to make demands. People today need discipline. You'd got to keep an eye on the bad element. It's an unpopular word, discipline. My predecessor would have said people 'need understanding.' That's the kind of woolly-headed thinking that leads to getting replaced. From now on you're going to see a different Village. Clear, orderly and quiet. You can start by telling me why your resigned."
The redhead was getting more and more frustrated. "I'm not really a joiner, sorry. And I'll never tell you why I resigned from the Council. It was a matter of principle. That's what happens when you are an individual. You grow up, the braces come off, you move out of your parents' basement and you set yourself apart from the crowd."
"Maybe that's your malfunction. Real antisocial type. You need to integrate into this community, Number 6. My predecessor may have gone in for that touchie-feelie nonsense, but you're in my world now. And you have touched and felt for the last time."
"Human emotions are frowned upon, then?" the redhead asked with a grin.
"Just the one pathetic cry for help after another."
Number 6 sighed, "You never ever got a single date in high school."
"Your point being?"
"Now, now, don't get all avoidy. Once you become part of the real world you might not think so much of this isolated fantasy-land you have cooked up. Especially the part where I tell you my deepest, darkest secrets. Oh sure, darkness: been there. But you will never break me."
Number 2 steeled himself. He looked the redhead square in the eye and said, "Oh no, Number 6. We don't want you broken. But I can't promise that we won't take you apart, tinker with you, and put you back together again."