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1967, 30 September

            Two days later, Sydney brought him new footage, of the man in his prison. It was merely a house that looked, from the inside, remarkably like the house he had left in London. But when the man left the house, all similarity to London ceased. Jarod and Sydney both stared as the security cameras followed the man through his strange new world.

            It was a tiny town, composed of a peculiar assortment of fantastical buildings and an even more peculiar assortment of fantastical people, all dressed in black and white blazers or in solid stripes, the colors impossible to make out in the black-and-white footage. The people were all strangely happy and scheduled and the place itself run along very strict lines. A casual visitor walking through might have called it a seaside resort. Jarod, seeing it through the man’s eyes, saw that it really was a prison, a strangely ominous one, beneath the bright, peculiar surface.

            Sydney read off some information from a paper. “It is called the Village. Agents suspected of treason are brought there. It is purposefully disorienting and lulls them into a false sense of security. With the sea on one side and impassable mountains on the other, it is a very effective prison, despite its lack of walls and locks. Security cameras monitor all areas of the grounds and buildings at all times, and there are highly sophisticated security measures in place.”

            Jarod shivered. “I don’t like it, Sydney.”

            “Why not? It seems like a very pleasant place, for a man who deserves to be locked in a jail cell.”

            “There’s something…malevolent about it. It feels like mind control. Those people aren’t normal. They’re all prisoners of this Village, and they’re wandering happily with umbrellas when it’s not raining. This man is the only one acting normally. He’s angry. He doesn’t liked being locked up—not any more than I do,” he muttered.

            “Concentrate, Jarod! This isn’t about you—it’s about him, a Communist agent sent to steal British secrets. Remember that.”

            Jarod sighed. He supposed if the man were sent to steal secrets, he would be very good at it and would be a danger to Great Britain and thus to every free country. “He’s going to try to escape soon. He’s angry and not thinking very clearly. He’ll just run for it.”

            Sydney looked through more papers. “This footage is from yesterday, and it seems he did exactly that. He was easily captured but was slightly injured. This morning he woke up in the hospital, where he met an old friend (perhaps another double agent), who then killed himself. Here is footage from the funeral.”

            A long procession of people in striped capes, carrying black umbrellas despite the clearness of the sky, proceeded along a flat beach to a place where a number of gravestones stood in the sand. The panning camera caught the man, now wearing a black blazer with a white-outlined collar, standing on a bluff high above the beach, talking to a beautiful woman in a hat and cape.

            “Who is that woman?” Jarod asked.

            “A friend of the old friend Number Six met.”

            “Number Six?”

            “The Russian agent. It seems no one is allowed names in the Village.”

            Jarod shuddered. He’d known he was right not to like the Village. It was a very effective way to eliminate a person’s identity, by first taking his name. Russian or not, he felt himself identifying with the man.

            “Jarod!” Sydney said sharply.

            He sighed again. “The woman is going to try to help Number Six escape. You can tell them that.” He got up and walked away from the projection screen.

            The simulation continued the next day. The woman had tried to help Number Six escape, and they had been foiled, not so much by Jarod’s information as by the astonishing return of the friend who had supposedly died. Jarod surprised himself by wanting to hate him for giving up his friend to prison while he walked free. Nevertheless, he had a job to do.

            “He wants to help people, Sydney. He doesn’t treat people very well if he thinks they’re against him, but he does want to help the people in this Village escape from the mind control. They could keep him running around in circles with that, so that he doesn’t have time to plan his own escape. He’ll play their games if it’ll keep others from being hurt. But he won’t ever give in. You can tell them that.”

            It was confusing that he felt like he was on the side of someone who was a Communist. But in this case he couldn’t help feeling that it was the good guys who were doing what was wrong and the bad guy who wanted what was right. That was confusing.

            “Sydney, are there any audio recordings of Number Six?” he asked. “I want to hear what he sounds like.”

            “Yes, there are a few of him from his first day.” Sydney nodded to the technician, who projected another recording on the wall.

            Number Six was in a large, round room with designs going around on huge screens on the walls. In the center was a bubble chair with a man in it and a number of control panels around him, and behind the man was a tall, old-fashioned bicycle. The two men appeared to be having breakfast together. They didn’t talk so much as they fenced with their words, and Jarod listened less to what they said than to how they said it. Number Six was…“pugnacious” might have been the right word. He was angry, harsh, demanding. Even his calm sentences were charged with meaning and sarcasm. In time the other man went from offering breakfast calmly to threatening equally calmly in the face of an increasingly angry Number Six. He flashed pictures on his wall screens, showing how the secret agent had been followed and observed at all moments of his free life.

            Number Six snarled at him, “I’ve nothing to say. Is that clear? Absolutely nothing.”

            “Now be reasonable, old boy. It’s just a matter of time. Sooner or later you’ll tell me. Sooner or later you’ll want to. Let’s make a deal. You cooperate, tell us what we want to know, and this can be a very nice place. You may even be given a position of authority.”

            Number Six’s voice was low, almost calm, but there was anger, power, and threat behind it. “I will not make any deals with you. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”

            “Is it?”

            “Yes. You won’t hold me.”

            And Jarod wanted to cheer for him.

            More recordings followed, one of which contained the declaration that stuck in Jarod’s mind: “I am not a number! I am a free man!” In simulations over the next few months, and at occasional times over the next year, Jarod came to know Number Six more and more. He hid how much he admired him. The man could say the most innocuous phrase and infuse it with defiance and threat. He went through things the boy, with all his simulation experience, shuddered to think about, but he held on to his sense of personal identity and his determination to be free. In a way Sydney never imagined, Number Six became Jarod’s role model.

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